PASOK MP Thanos Moraitis, joining a chorus of dissent against party leader Evangelos Venizelos, has become the first to call for the Socialist chief to step down as its popularity keeps plummeting.
Moraitis was the first in the party to call for Venizelos to quit even though the Socialist leader is serving as Deputy Prime Minister/Foreign Minister in the coalition government of Prime Minister and New Democracy Conservative leader Antonis Samaras, elevated after backing the firing of public workers last year.
PASOK, Moraitis said, “needs a new leadership, one that can inspire, unite and expand [the party’s influence].” He said the party’s showing in the European Parliament elections, in which it managed only 8 percent of the vote despite attaching itself to the new center-left movement Elia, or Olive Tree, showed Venizelos is the wrong person to lead the party.
Moraitis said the dismal showing marked “the third successive defeat in a context of victorious results for the party in ballots for social and scientific associations.”
PASOK scored victories at recent elections for the Technical Chamber of Greece and the Athens Bar Association and Moraitis’s comment was seen as a snide suggestion that Venizelos is out of touch with the party base.
Senior PASOK officials – including Costas Skandalidis, Dimitris Reppas and Fofi Gennimata – have over the previous days criticized Venizelos’s strategy of sticking to backing austerity measures.
A statement from PASOK’s headquarters at Harilaou Trikpoupi criticized attempts to “undermine the stability of the government,” without naming Moraitis or any other official. There were no reports whether Venizelos would reprimand or eject any of the lawmakers who have been critical of him.
PASOK won 44 percent of the vote in winning the 2009 national elections to gain the Premiership for then-leader George Papandreou, but he was hounded out of office two years later by protests, strikes and riots against pay cuts, tax hikes, and slashed pensions that are antithetical to the party’s principles.
Samaras brought PASOK into his government two years ago because he needed the Socialist’s votes – along with the Democratic Left (DIMAR) which last year quit the coalition – to control Parliament.
Former PASOK minister Andreas Loverdos, who quit the party, has just said he will return and there were reports that four others that Venizelos booted from the party for refusing to back his orders how to vote might also return, but the party had fallen to 3-5 percent in the polls before joining Elia.
In the 2012 national elections, PASOK finished a distant third, with 13.18 percent and 756,024 votes. In this year’s European Parliament elections in Greece to choose the country’s 21 representatives in Brussels, Elia/PASOK got only 458,403 votes to finish fourth with 8.02 percent and a loss for the Socialists of 297,621 votes.