Venizelos elected as new PASOK leader

Venizelos elected as new PASOK leader

Venizelos elected as new PASOK leader

Venizelos has assumed leadership of the socialist PASOK party after he was elected to the post unopposed in the party’s internal leadership election. AA photo

Greek Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos was elected leader of the socialist party PASOK on March 18, and now faces a Herculean battle to avert disaster in upcoming elections.

The 55-year-old politician, the only candidate to run for the job relinquished by former Prime Minister George Papandreou, told supporters at party headquarters: “We have re-established the confidence for a new departure. We are starting.” Venizelos was expected to submit his resignation yesterday after being elected. According to Pasok estimates, some 200,000 party members or sympathizers took part in the nationwide vote. But the task now facing Venizelos is a daunting one.

Although Pasok has ruled Greece for a combined two decades since democracy was restored in 1974 after a seven-year army rule, the socialists are in free fall in opinion polls, hitting all-time lows.
Papandreou was forced to step down last year after becoming increasingly unpopular over tax hikes and wage cuts imposed to fight the country’s worst crisis in decades, the socialist administration was replaced by a coalition government comprising socialists, the center right and the far right and led by Lucas Papademos, a former European Central Bank executive.

Aim is to win parliamentary elections
Venizelos, a French-educated law professor from the northern metropolis of Thessaloniki, insists that his goal is to win the next legislative election, which has not been officially announced but is expected in late April or early May.

Venizelos is hoping to capitalize on a record deal with private investors last week to erase more than $130 billion of near- and mid-term debt to give Greece time to enact additional reforms needed for future loans. But the IMF reminded Athens that the pressure is not off.

Compiled from AFP and Reuters stories by the Daily News staff.