Simitis said to be furious with minister

Health Minister Alekos Papadopoulos’s surprise announcement that he will withdraw from politics and not seek re-election in the next general election continued to reverberate through the political system yesterday. After the initial shock of the leading reformer’s decision – which he made public in an interview with Kathimerini on Sunday – Prime Minister Costas Simitis and other senior PASOK members appeared to be furious with Papadopoulos, and it was likely that he would soon lose his place in the government. Although initial reports said that Simitis and Papadopoulos had not discussed the issue in depth in a telephone call late on Saturday (on Simitis’s way to China), yesterday the same sources said that the prime minister was extremely upset with Papadopoulos for not having told him of his decision before announcing it. «What have you done? Why didn’t you inform me?» Simitis’s aides quoted him as saying angrily. Government spokesman Telemachos Hytiris confirmed that Simitis was caught by surprise, adding, however, «we are all upset when we learn that such a worthy cadre has taken such a decision.» Sources said that Simitis’s anger was stoked by the thought that a senior minister would not have informed him of such a serious decision, by rumors that he tried but failed to get Papadopoulos to change his mind, and third, by his aides’ view that Papadopoulos would not now have the credibility to push health reforms. Simitis is said to be thinking of firing Papadopoulos when he returns from China at the end of the week. PASOK Secretary-General Costas Laliotis spoke with Papadopoulos by telephone. He then suggested the minister might have been afraid he might not be re-elected in his old constituency in northwestern Greece (something Papadopoulos had rejected in the interview). «I disagree with the timing and the way in which Alekos Papadopoulos announced his decision,» Laliotis said. «Because it… gives some people the opportunity to tie it to the current negative climate for PASOK and for others to tie it to the change of Thesprotia from a two-seat constituency a single-seat one.»