PASOK leader heralds change

Opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou, visibly refreshed by his clear victory in Sunday’s party leadership elections, yesterday pledged to announce a new agenda for fighting «extra-institutional centers» and «those who want PASOK to remain small and fearful.» With 64 percent of votes counted by late yesterday, Papandreou had secured 56 percent of the vote, his main challenger Evangelos Venizelos had amassed 38 percent and Costas Skandalidis, the third runner, 5.8 percent of votes. Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis sent a congratulatory message to Papandreou, expressing his desire «to work together to solve the country’s major problems.» Papandreou said his re-election showed that «democracy had won» and signaled «the first major bold step for the creation of a political system that respects citizens.» Venizelos, the former minister who provoked the leadership battle after PASOK’s defeat in September’s general elections, congratulated Papandreou and wished him luck for a «mission undertaken for a second time.» Venizelos referred to his supporters as «a large, dynamic, radical, optimistic movement.» He stressed that PASOK’s rise to government was still the «common goal,» adding that «our rival was and is conservatism, the right and its government.» Skandalidis, the third candidate in Sunday’s contest, said the elections «proved that, at critical moments, PASOK can regroup and move forward.»