PASOK leadership race takes a new turn

The PASOK leadership contest took a new turn on Tuesday with Health Minister Andreas Loverdos declaring his backing for Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos, but there are still doubts about the positions the party will adopt going into the final round of negotiations between Greece and its lenders.

Loverdos, who was one of the frontrunners in the race to succeed George Papandreou, said that he was putting aside his personal ambitions for the good of the party. “We will proceed together because our party cannot take any more division and the country needs some stability,” he said.

The alliance between the two men has made Venizelos the clear favorite to succeed Papandreou. Venizelos and Loverdos informed other top Socialists, such as Education Minister Anna Diamantopoulou, of their decision to join forces before making yesterday’s announcement in an attempt to get their blessing for the move.

However, the future of Papandreou remains in doubt. He has called a leadership election in March but there is growing unrest within the party about his lame duck presidency. Some MPs have indicated that they might call a vote of no confidence when PASOK’s parliamentary group meets on Thursday in a bid to force Papandreou to stand aside.

The timing of these developments is extremely sensitive given that Prime Minister Lucas Papademos wants to meet with party leaders to agree on common positions ahead of finalizing the latest reforms with the troika on Friday. PASOK has adopted the most inflexible stance of all three coalition parties on key issues such as private sector wage cuts, reductions to supplementary pensions and the recapitalization of Greek banks, so it is vital to the process that the Socialist leader be able to provide some clarity on these matters.

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