The leader of the Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA), Alekos Alavanos, said yesterday that he would be stepping down as party president next year, just a few months after guiding the leftists to one of their best general election results. Alavanos’s announcement comes as a surprise even though there had been rumors during the past few days that he would make way for a younger leader. The 57-year-old said that he would not run for the leadership again at the party’s next congress, which is due to be held in January. Alavanos, who has been party leader since December 2004, simply said he was standing down for «personal reasons,» without giving any further details. He had been credited with helping SYRIZA to more than double its parliamentary seats to 14 in the September general election with just over 5 percent of the popular vote. Nobody put themselves forward as a candidate yesterday but it is thought that the leadership will be fought out between 33-year-old Athens mayoral candidate Alexis Tsipras, MP Panayiotis Lafazanis, fellow deputy Yiannis Dragasakis and MEP Dimitris Papadimoulis. Meanwhile, PASOK leader George Papandreou yesterday said party members will have to unite behind his vision if the Socialists are to return to power. Papandreou was re-elected as party president on November 11 after comfortably defeating rivals Evangelos Venizelos and Costas Skandalidis and yesterday’s message was aimed mainly at their supporters. «The policies we proposed did not impact on public opinion because of the impression in some people’s minds that PASOK was part of the establishment and riddled with personal differences,» said Papandreou. The 55-year-old suggested that expelling dissenters from the party would be his «final option» but that it is «fully within» his powers to do so. He added that he felt «more liberated» since his re-election. It was also decided yesterday that PASOK’s congress would be held February 22-24.