Venizelos rift deepens within PASOK

The possibility of a split in PASOK and the expulsion of MP Evangelos Venizelos moved a step closer yesterday after less-than-fruitful talks between the deputy and party leader George Papandreou. The two men met to discuss Venizelos’s plans to form a think tank within the party to formulate ideas and policies. Papandreou, who beat off the challenge of the Thessaloniki MP in leadership polls last November, is concerned that Venizelos is trying to create a faction within the Socialist party. However, yesterday’s meeting between the two does not appear to have healed their differences and the likelihood of Venizelos being forced to break away from PASOK is growing. «People expect a lot from PASOK and we owe it to them to respond,» said Venizelos in a thinly veiled dig at Papandreou’s leadership. «I am and always will be a guarantor of the party’s unity. Anyone who tries to suggest that there are enemies in the party is seriously damaging PASOK and its prospects.» Sources said that Papandreou made it clear to Venizelos during the meeting that he does not want him to proceed with the creation of the think tank, even though PASOK’s charter appears to allow it. Papandreou reportedly told him that he viewed it as an attempt to create «a party within a party.» Venizelos, however, appeared determined to continue with his plans. «Within the framework of PASOK’s charter, I will make every effort humanly possible for the victory of the party for which I am still a soldier.»