George Papandreou will on Friday chair a meeting of PASOK's political council, the party's highest body, that will prepare the ground for the official announcement of leadership candidates at the national council on Sunday. The center-left party is due to elect a new president to succeed Papandreou, a former prime minister, on March 18. Christos Papoutsis, who this week resigned as citizens' protection minister, is the latest socialist cadre to unveil his candidacy for the post. In an interview with state NET television on Thursday, Papoutsis distanced himself from comments made recently by Andreas Loverdos, a senior PASOK cadre and health minister in the government coalition, who did not exclude the possibility of a post-election cooperation with New Democracy conservatives. “It is unacceptable that a PASOK deputy would be fighting for [ND leader Antonis} Samaras to become prime minister,” Papoutsis said. Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos is also expected to take part in the contest and is expected to comfortably beat Papoutsis. Papoutsis came under repeated attack during his time in the Cabinet. He took over from Michalis Chrysochoidis last year and has been criticized for the police’s handling on ant-austerity protests, in particular.