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DIMAR's Kouvelis Quits; Independent Greeks See Changes

DIMAR leader Fotis Kouvelis (L) and Independent Greeks chief Panos Kammenos
DIMAR leader Fotis Kouvelis (L) and Independent Greeks chief Panos Kammenos

After his party’s abysmal showing in European Parliament elections – finishing last among major parties with 1.2 percent of the vote – Democratic Left (DIMAR) leader Fotis Kouvelis has resigned under pressure from unhappy lawmakers.
DIMAR failed to elect a single candidate in the European balloting. “I made every attempt to defend democratic values that comprise our political party and express DIMAR’s collective decisions,” he said in a statement.
“We all believe in a left which is at the service of social solidarity of dignity and a negotiable politics and partisan honesty,” he added.
“The results of the elections for the European Parliament lead me, as I have the obligation, to submit my resignation to the central committee and to the convention of the party according to the charter procedures,” he added.
It was reported that he is likely to be replaced by Spyros Lykoukidis, who was one of the few in the party to make personal attacks on Kouvelis as the party fell apart around him, and did not seek the leader’s resignation.
Lykoudis though, while he wanted a unified left, also did not favor DIMAR leaving the coalition government last year of Prime Minister Antonis Samaras’ New Democracy Conservatives and the PASOK Socialists.
Kouvelis pulled out after refusing to go along, as PASOK did, with the firing of all 2,653 workers at the now-defunct national broadcaster ERT, which has been replaced by a new station called NERIT.
But before that, Kouvelis backed harsh austerity measures that are antithetical to the party’s principles and paid dearly for it in the EU balloting. There is a 3 percent threshold required to enter Parliament.
If Lykoudis is elected, the party may follow a completely different direction. Kouvelis had said he would never bring it back into the government although PASOK chief Evangelos Venizelos, who is also Deputy Premier/Foreign Minister, had hinted it would be invited back to shore up the coalition’s thin parliamentary majority.
The decision for the date of a convention will be decided in a board meeting of party leaders, although it wasn’t ruled out that Kouvelis would run for the leadership post he just quit.
Before he stepped aside, Four DIMAR MPs said that only under certain conditions would they attend the party conference that Kouvelis wanted to assess the fallout from the elections even though polls showed he was headed for a disaster.
They demanded the party change direction and should consider joining with PASOK, itself struggling, and the new populist To Potami (The River) whose two elected Members of the European Parliament will sit in the same grouping with the Socialists.
The idea would be to create a grand center-left alliance, especially with PASOK tied to the new Elia, Olive Tree, movement that wanted to bring proponents of that ideology together in a country where political rivalries are like warfare.
But five of DIMAR’s 14 lawmakers said they wanted the party to move closer to the major opposition Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) which won the EU ballot by 3.8 percent over New Democracy.
Led by Yiannis Panousis, the five deputies indicated that they wanted Kouvelis to stand aside so a new leader could take over. DIMAR won 6.2 percent of the vote in the 2012 national elections but has been in a free fall ever since as Kouvelis backed pay cuts, tax hikes and slashed pensions.
The Independent Greeks also took a big hit in the European Parliament vote although they are anti-austerity. Despite that stance, their support fell from 7.5 percent two years ago to only 3.4 percent in the May 25 balloting.
Party leader Panos Kammenos has called a meeting of the Independent Greeks parliamentary group for May 29. The group is made up primarily of New Democrat ejects and rejects and has feuded bitterly with Samaras.
A congress will follow at a later date. Kammenos is not expected to come under the same pressure as Kouvelis but his MPs said they want him to foster cooperation with other right-wing anti-austerity parties who have little support as Greeks keep backing the parties who created the economic crisis and put tough measures on workers, pensioners and the poor.

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