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"Positive meeting" between Venizelos and Papandreou

A meeting between the Deputy Prime Minister and PASOK leader, Evangelos Venizelos and the former Prime Minister George Papandreou has concluded after lasting almost two hours.

 

The meeting is significant as the two key figures in the once mighty PASOK party have been increasingly been at odds. It is the first such meeting to take place between the two men in months.  The rift has sown added discord into the junior coalition partner that has seen its support collapse in recent years. The center-left party was once the dominant force in Greek politics but is currently polling in the low single digits.

Many Greeks blame PASOK for the financial crisis in Greece and many of the voters once loyal to the party have now migrated to the anti-austerity SYRIZA.

Mr Venizelos has made a number of efforts to unite the increasingly fragmented center left, the most recent and significant of these being to announce the launch of the ‘Democratic Party’ (Dimokratiki Parataxi) – an umbrella group that would include PASOK and smaller center left parties.

However that initiative has struggled in light of the Papandreou – Venizelos rift, with the pro-Papandreou camp apparently unwilling to lend its support to the initiative. A number of recent incidents have also indicated that the tension between the two sides is at breaking point while there has been speculation that Papandreou may support a leadership challenge in PASOK or even break away from the party entirely.

Now there appears to be an effort to at least paper over the cracks – perhaps in light of the prospect of early elections in March.

Papandreou accepted an invitation from Venizelos for the meeting and arrived at 12.10 to the Foreign Ministry. There the two men reportedly had a wide ranging discussion behind closed doors until Papandreou departed at 14.00 without making comments to the press.

For his part, speaking to journalists, Mr Venizelos described the atmosphere of the meeting as “very good and with positive indications,” and implied that the two politicians would speak again to discuss proposals made by Papandreou regarding the Democratic Party.

According to reports a wide range of national issues were discussed as well as the political situation in the country in light of the ongoing difficult negotiations with the troika over the final review of Greece’s bailout programme.

Venizelos evaded a question of whether Papandreou would seek reelection as an MP in the next elections, saying that elections are not imminent as Parliament would succeed in electing a President of the Republic in March and therefore general elections would take place as scheduled in 2016.