NEWS

A shock for PASOK

Alekos Papadopoulos, a leading member of the ruling PASOK party and a minister who has been on the front line of the government’s reform efforts over the past decade, announced suddenly yesterday that he will not seek re-election in the next parliamentary elections. Papadopoulos, who had not even informed the prime minister before dropping his bombshell in Sunday’s Kathimerini, said, however, that he would like to stay on as health minister and oversee the reforms that he has introduced there. Elections are due by the spring of 2004. Prime Minister Costas Simitis, on an official visit in China, called Papadopoulos, who told him that his decision was personal and that he would continue to support PASOK. Politicians from PASOK and the opposition commented on Papadopoulos’s decision, with many asking him to reconsider. New Democracy’s shadow health minister, Nikitas Kaklamanis, took the opportunity to praise and criticize. «I hope that he will reconsider, as I hope he will reconsider his health policy,» he told reporters yesterday. Development Minister Akis Tsochadzopoulos was critical. «I cannot imagine that Alekos Papadopoulos would make such an announcement through the press,» he said. «He has had long enough experience in the party to present his positions there first.» Papadopoulos, 53, has served in several key posts following Simitis’s rise to prime minister in 1996. As finance minister he helped enforce the economic austerity policy that brought Greece into the eurozone, as interior minister he reorganized the country’s regional and municipal districts under the Capodistrias plan, and as health minister he has introduced wide-ranging reforms – not least of which were last week’s severe curbs on smoking. Papadopoulos has repeatedly confronted vested interests, provoking strong reaction. He did not clarify exactly why he was withdrawing, but he said that his style was incompatible with what he termed «TV democracy.» «Few people judge a politician by the quality of his planned objectives, his belief in them and his consistent and systematic implementation of them,» he said. «I’ll remain a member of PASOK and I’ll continue to fight for my ideas in that capacity. But I feel the need to change my life; to get out of the political spotlight; to do things I love and have missed. In nearly 10 years that I’ve been in the government I’ve lived almost one-dimensionally,» Papadopoulos said.