Venizelos Faces PASOK Leadership Fight

PASOK Socialist leader Evangelos Venizelos could be on the way out
PASOK Socialist leader Evangelos Venizelos could be on the way out

After leading PASOK to the brink of extinction, party leader Evangelos Venizelos said there are dissidents who want the Socialists to fare badly in this month’s elections for Greek municipalities and the European Parliament so they can try to oust him.

PASOK won the 2009 elections with 44 percent of the vote, elevating George Papandreou to Prime Minister, but after he asked for international bailouts that came with harsh austerity measures, leading to protests that forced him out of office and brought early elections.

PASOK is still serving in a coalition government run by Prime Minister and New Democracy leader Antonis Samaras, who appointed Venizelos Deputy Premier/Foreign Minister in return for backing the firing of workers and continued pay cuts, tax hikes and slashed pensions.

While that has kept Venizelos in the limelight, the party  fell to 3-5 percent support and he had to desperately attached PASOK to a new center-left political movement called Elia (Olive Tree), but that is showing at only about 7 percent support.

Venizelos said there are some people within PASOK who are hoping that the party crashes in the May 18 municipal elections and those for the EU a week later so that they can challenge for the leadership the way he did against Papandreou before elections five years ago, only to fail.

Venizelos addressed PASOK’s parliamentary group with the aim of rallying support but admitted PASOK is divided.

“Our main aim is to reunite the country, but to do this the party must appear united,” he said while questioning whether some PASOK members were committed to the cause.

“We will all be judge in these elections: Those in this room and those who are absent,” added Venizelos in an apparent swipe at former leader Papandreou, who did not attend the meeting and who has spoken out against lining up the party with Elia, a loose collection of intellectuals and academics with no political platform or agenda.

Venizelos had suggested that the coalition would not survive if PASOK performs poorly but this meant PASOK would quit the government of its own accord. However, he stressed it is “self-evident” that the coalition would likely collapse if the election results prove unfavorable.

The coalition has only 152 votes in the 300-member Parliament, although it has been dismantling the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party that has 18 lawmakers, arresting and jailing its leaders on charges of running a criminal gang.