PASOK Socialist chief Evangelos Venizelos’ already shaky hold on his fast-fading once-dominant party took another blow when Infrastructure Minister Michalis Chrysochoidis sided with the group’s previous leader, former premier George Papandreou in a dispute over whether the Leftists should be part of a new political organization called Elia, Olive Tree.
With PASOK a junior partner in the coalition government of Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, the New Democracy Conservative leader, Chrysochoidis is serving as one of the Socialist’s ministers and defied his own party leader in supporting Papandreou, who was hounded out of office in 2011 by incessant protests, strikes and riots against austerity measures he imposed on the orders of international lenders.
Papandreou refused to attend the founding congress of the Olive Tree alliance between the Socialists and other, smaller, center-left parties for the European Parliament elections with the ideological movement in complete disarray and chaos as PASOK has fallen to 3-5 support in polls ahead of critical May elections for Greek municipalities and the European Parliament.
Papandreou boycotted the event as he dismissed the Olive Tree initiative as detrimental to PASOK. Chrysochoidis, who also failed to attend the congress, supported Papandrou’s decision in an op-ed published in Ta Nea daily. The minister said that this move would consign PASOK to a poor showing in the elections on May 25.
“PASOK has not been able to overcome the weaknesses of its past,” he said. “It is unregrettably leader-centric, arrogantly didactic, lacking boldness in its actions and defeated before the war has even begun,” he said, taking a swipe at his party leader.
Chrysochoidis also dismissed the parties with which PASOK is cooperating, including one led by the party’s ex-MP and former Health Minister Andreas Loverdos, as “incapable and unimportant,” as Greece’s center-left has spun out of control and cannot hold.
The minister’s comments were dismissed by PASOK members loyal to Venizelos. “He may have been reading the memorandum,” said Paris Koukoulopoulos of the minister’s absence.
Chrysochoidis had famously claimed once that he did not read Greece’s first bailout agreement with the Troika of the European Union-International Monetary Fund-European Central Bank (EU-IMF-ECB) putting up $325 billion in two rescue packages.
Those came on condition of big pay cuts, tax hikes, slashed pensions and worker firings that Papandreou and Venizelos supported, taking the party from 44 percent support when it won the 2009 elections to the basement of Greek political parties and put it on the edge of extinction.
Publicly, Papandreou has backed Venizelos but the enmity between them runs deep as Venizelos tried to take over the party before the 2009 elections after Papandreou had twice lost to then-New Democracy Conservative party leader Costas Karamanlis before finally beating him.