09 January, 2004
Prime Minister Costas Simitis officially resigned as president of ruling PASOK before the party's Central Committee on Thursday and initiated procedures to elect a new leader for the party.
In his address to gathered Central Committee members, he called on them to agree to an emergency PASOK conference on February 6 and proposed that the new leader be elected by the entire PASOK membership in a vote to be held on February 8, two days after the conference.
Simitis also proposed that the conference make decisions regarding PASOK's pre-election program.
He reiterated that the new president of the party will lead PASOK's government after the elections and that his decision to step down was prompted by clear goals, namely that PASOK would be able to contend in the upcoming elections on ''terms of victory'' rather than the 'deceptive characteristics' that the main opposition was seeking to impose, with clear risk that it would succeed.
Simitis also underlined that his decisions were not motivated by personal goals and criteria but by his duty to shape developments in such a way as to ensure that Greece would continue after his departure on the best possible terms.
Urging members of the party to act in the same way, he defended the timing of his move as a response to Greek society's urgent call for renewal.
The premier sought to assuage concerns about the brief period of 'dual leadership' for PASOK, stressing that it will end on March 8 after the elections and noting that such a an arrangement had already been tested before in other European countries.
He also underlined that he would be an active presence in PASOK's pre-election campaign and rejected the term 'interim prime minister' voiced by his critics, while noting that he would be present to assist the new president of PASOK with his experience and the work of the past eight years and that he would contribute to forming PASOK's positions.
Foreign Minister George Papandreou, who by all accounts will be the new president of ruling PASOK ahead of the March 7 elections, on Thursday announced his intention to “lead the great democratic faction”, as he said, a clear reference to his assumption of the prime minister’s post in place of PM Costas Simitis if PASOK wins the next elections.
Papandreou, speaking at the end of an urgently called PASOK central committee meeting, called an executive bureau proposal for the election of a new party leader by grassroots supporters a “ground-breaking event without precedent; it also expresses a new beginning, because society demands a say in order to jointly make decisions.”
Papandreou also called on the social strata he said traditionally supported PASOK, farmers, women, small business owners, to participate in a “process of dialogue to formulate the party’s program (statements) and the election of a president.”
“In this procedure, with a sense of responsibility and great emotion, I am submitting my request to lead this great democratic party,” his statement concluded.
Members of ruling PASOK's Central Committee on Thursday gave a yea vote to the prime minister's proposal to change the party charter, so that the new party leader will be elected by PASOK's entire support base, namely all PASOK ''members and friends''.
Prime Minister Costas Simitis had earlier addressed the conference and resigned as party president, urging the gathering to approve the procedure he proposed for electing a new party leader.
In a unanimous vote based on a count of hands, the Central Committee augmented by PASOK's Parliamentary group approved the Executive Bureau's proposal, as presented by PASOK Central Committee Secretary Mihalis Chrysohoidis.
Apart from a vote by the party base for the new president, the proposal also allows expanded participation in an emergency PASOK conference to be held on February 6.
Among those allowed to participate will be members of regional, prefectural and sector committees as representatives of organizations, the secretaries of recently-elected secretariats of local, municipal and other organizations, and of organizations linked to labor, representatives of PASOK Youth and members that are on the board of ''tertiary organizations with nationwide remits''.
The election for the new PASOK president will take place on February 8 and the details of the process will be worked out in the time leading up to the party conference by the Executive Bureau.
Addressing the gathering, Chrysohoidis praised the prime minister ''for giving a personal example of a leader who does not see power as a personal monopoly with an indefinite time limit''.
Source: Athens News Agency