PASOK hits patch of turbulence

The rumblings of discontent could be heard in PASOK yesterday following the decision of its leader George Papandreou to place its former chief and ex-Prime Minister Costas Simitis at the fringes of the party’s activities. Two Socialist MPs, Alekos Papadopoulos and Ektoras Nassiokas, spoke out yesterday against the decision to effectively oust Simitis from PASOK’s parliamentary group. The deputies chose to criticize Papandreou’s decision, even though party secretary Yiannis Ragoussis had sent a circular to all PASOK MPs asking them not to comment publicly on the issue. Sources said that Papandreou, who was yesterday touring the areas of the Peloponnese that were affected by Sunday’s earthquake, was furious about the statement made by the two deputies. The PASOK leader now faces a tough decision as he may need to remove Papadopoulos and Nassiokas from the parliamentary group if he wishes to be seen to be putting his foot down over dissent within the party ranks. Papandreou fought off a leadership challenge last November. His main opponent then, Thessaloniki MP Evangelos Venizelos has so far remained silent on the Simitis development. However, Venizelos was seen having dinner on Thursday night with a number of high-level PASOK politicians, including Andreas Loverdos, a deputy who was one of his main backers in the leadership campaign. Other PASOK MPs were more sanguine in their reaction to the edging out of Simitis. «I am not among those who cry over spilt milk,» said veteran deputy Apostolos Kaklamanis. He said that he disagreed with Simitis’s decision to publish a letter to Papandreou, in which he criticized some of his policies. But Kaklamanis also said that the way PASOK’s press office was handling the affair created the impression that there was a serious problem in the party.