NEWS

Simitis tells cadres to pull their weight

In an effort to marshal the ruling PASOK party’s leading cadres into a united force to wage political battles, Prime Minister Costas Simitis issued a dramatic call for the influential Central Committee to stop bickering and to help his government. «The government cannot pluck all the chestnuts out of the fire by itself. It needs the help of all of us. Those chestnuts will burn if some people want to light fires,» Simitis said on Saturday at the end of a two-day meeting of the Central Committee. He repeatedly called on members to abide by collective decisions. Opening the discussion on Friday, Simitis had appealed to party barons to abandon «personal goals and strategies.» Simitis’s comments were overshadowed yesterday by more outspoken comments by Theodoros Pangalos, a leading PASOK member whom Simitis fired from two ministerial posts, who said it was almost certain the party would lose the next elections. «In the past, I said that if we do not manage to change the climate by June, then defeat would be much more certain. I don’t want to be absolute, but from now on, PASOK should consider its electoral defeat an accomplished fact,» Pangalos told To Vima yesterday, adding that if, in the October municipal and regional elections, PASOK won fewer than 20 prefectures out of the country’s 52, it should call an early Congress. On Saturday, the Central Committee voted almost unanimously to accept a series of proposals that will be decided on at the next party conference before these elections. These include the election of the party leader directly by all party members rather than at a congress of national delegates. The only naysayer on the 180-member central committee was trade unionist Maria Frangiadaki, whose breaking ranks on the administrative board of the General Confederation of Greek Labor (GSEE) led to the largest labor body in the land joining tomorrow’s national strike against social security reforms – despite a decision to the contrary by GSEE’s PASOK leadership. Simitis, commenting on the dangers of infighting within PASOK, noted, «Many comrades have said we are our own worst enemy. And this is the opponent whom we must defeat soon and decisively.»