Simitis in PASOK doghouse

PASOK leader George Papandreou informed former Prime Minister Costas Simitis yesterday that he would no longer be considered a deputy of the Socialist party after publishing a letter criticizing his successor’s choices. Papandreou said in a letter to the 71-year-old that he would not go through the official steps to have Simitis thrown out of PASOK’s parliamentary group out of respect for his contribution to the party but would not consider him a Socialist MP for an indefinite period of time. Simitis angered Papandreou by writing a letter, which he then made public, in which he challenged the leader’s decision to back a referendum on the ratification of the European Union’s Lisbon Treaty. Many commentators saw this as just an excuse for Simitis to publicly attack Papandreou, who has had a fractious relationship with the former premier since taking over from him in 2004. «Your decision to publish the letter and not to conform with PASOK’s parliamentary group… were unacceptable political acts,» Papandreou said in his letter. The PASOK leader defended his stance on the Lisbon Treaty, which was voted through Parliament in the early hours of yesterday morning, saying that it was a position that has been adopted by the party as a whole and had been put to various committees. Papandreou said that Simitis’s actions begged serious questions about the ex-PM’s motives. Simitis, who was prime minister between 1996 and 2004, responded by firing off another letter to Papandreou, highlighting the fact that PASOK has lost every election since he took control of the party. The Piraeus MP added that he would not give up the right to speak his mind on issues that bother him. This latest internal upheaval in PASOK comes just seven months after Papandreou fought off a leadership challenge in which his main rival was Thessaloniki MP Evangelos Venizelos.