PASOK faces crucial conference

PASOK leader George Papandreou is set to deliver one of his most important speeches at the start of his party’s eighth conference today, as he attempts to inject new life into the Socialists, who continue to trail the ruling conservatives by some distance in opinion polls. Papandreou will speak today knowing that PASOK has entered one of the trickiest periods in its 33-year history. A Public Issue survey this week suggested that PASOK trails New Democracy by 6.5 percent despite the opposition to the government’s pension reform plans. Papandreou attempted to connect with the electorate yesterday by taking part in the rally held in front of Parliament, organized by the GSEE and ADEDY unions to protest the reforms. «We are all here because we are fighting for justice,» said Papandreou. «Workers are right to protest. These government measures shall not pass on the sly and with the help of public relations tricks.» Papandreou is expected to tell his party that it is time to start a «new journey» toward making PASOK electable at the next general elections, which are not due until September 2011. The renewal is likely to begin with the appointment of a number of younger members (under the age of 35) to PASOK’s national council. The process will be rubber-stamped during the conference, which will run until Sunday in Athens. Another crucial development will be the formation of the Socialists’ political council, which will act as Papandreou’s shadow Inner Cabinet and be responsible for the day-to-day running of the party. The council is likely to be made up of 10 to 15 members. All eyes will be on whether 55-year-old Papandreou includes his rivals for the party leadership, Evangelos Venizelos and Costas Skandalidis, on the political council. Party secretary Nikos Athanassakis said yesterday that the subjects that will be discussed at the conference, which will be attended by 7,100 delegates, would not just relate to PASOK but to «society, citizens and the country as a whole.»

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