Papandreou tries to break with the past

PASOK leader George Papandreou attempted to make a bold break with the past this weekend by telling delegates at the Socialists’ conference that he would prevent previous ministers or deputy ministers from serving on his party’s political council. The unexpected move appeared to have been met with resounding support from more than 7,000 delegates who attended PASOK’s eighth annual conference in Athens. The gathering came to an end yesterday with delegates voting on the 150 party members that will make up PASOK’s national council, which is the body that will eventually vote on who will sit on the political council. The results of the voting were expected late last night. The political council is responsible for the day-to-day running of the party and acts as a sort of shadow cabinet. Papandreou’s move was seen by some as an attempt to block some of his opponents, such as Thessaloniki MP and former minister Evangelos Venizelos who challenged him for the leadership last November. But Papandreou attempted to show publicly that there were no hard feelings as he invited Venizelos and the other leadership challenger Costas Skandalidis onto the stage at the end of his speech on Saturday. The three exchanged handshakes, waved and smiled for the audience. Papandreou also used the speech as an opportunity to expand on his other break with the past, which was the opening up to the Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) and the possibility of cooperation between the parties. The PASOK leader said he still wanted his party to win enough votes to form an autonomous government but wished to have wider cooperation with other parties to solve the country’s problems. He encouraged SYRIZA to decide whether it wanted to grab this opportunity or not. SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras appeared unmoved by Papandreou’s move, saying that he thanked PASOK for its offer but: «We are not interested.» Tsipras, who was guest speaker at the PASOK conference, accused the Socialists of being «oblivious to what is going on around them.»

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