Former Greek prime minister George Papandreou announced on Wednesday he is joining the race to lead the center-left Movement for Change party (KINAL).
In a televised address Papandreou said that that progressive political forces need to grow again.
“We need a new change. For the citizens and the country. That is why the democratic progressive party needs to grow again. To join the other progressive forces in Europe and the world, which are staging a dynamic comeback,” he said in his address.
“I decided to run for the leadership of the Movement. I will contribute with all my strength to make our party big and strong again.”
Papandreou said he had informed the incumbent Fofi Gennimata on his decision on Wednesday.
Gennimata pulled out of the leadership race last week, after she was hospitalized for health reasons. With the entry of Papandreou in the race, the number of candidates for the leadership of KINAL has now risen to seven.
Papandreou resigned in 2011 over referendum plan
On 6 October 2009, George Papandreou became the 182nd Prime Minister of Greece. He was the third member of the Papandreou family to serve as the country’s prime minister, following his father Andreas and his grandfather Georgios Papandreou.
He resigned on 11 November 2011 during the Greek government debt crisis to make way for a national unity government. In reality he was “toppled” by German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozi, when he proposed a referendum where Greeks should decide how the debt issue should be managed.
In March 2012, he resigned as leader of PASOK, and in January 2015, he left the party completely, founding his own political party, the Movement of Democratic Socialists (KIDISO), which was the 8th most voted-for party in the January 2015 elections, but did not manage to enter Parliament.
In 2017, KIDISO joined the Democratic Alignment, a political alliance formed by PASOK and other centre-left parties. Democratic Alignment later evolved into Movement for Change, which in the 2019 elections was the third most voted-for party, with Papandreou himself returning to Parliament as an MP representing the region of Achaea.
He is considered responsible for putting the country between a rock and a hard place by signing a bailout agreement that ushered Greece in the “memoranda” period. He is the man identified by many as the “memoranda bringer” and destroyer of the Greek economy.
“I was a scapegoat”
Papandreou has been accused of not taking a harder stance in 2010, during the crucial days of talks with the European Union on the state of Greek economy. He could tell euro zone partners, his critics say, that he would declare bankruptcy, even as a bluff.
In a tell-all interview to Greek Reporter in 2016, Papandreou defended his rule. “There was a huge deficit, the Greek debt had doubled in five years and Greece had lost credibility. Playing the bluff? What if it had not worked. Would I have been a responsible prime minister if I had let the country go bankrupt?”
In that case, he said, he “wouldn’t be able to pay salaries, we’d close the schools, we’d close the army, we’d close the hospitals. We simply didn’t have the money. There would be a huge disruption.”
Instead, he told Greek Reporter, he chose for the country to go through a difficult process “getting money from our European partners. Most say the IMF. It wasn’t just the IMF, mostly it was European money.”
At the time, he said, no one had come forward to offer an alternative. All the governments after him followed the same road of bailouts. “Had everybody supported me then, as they did in Portugal, as they did in Ireland, as they did in Cyprus, we’d have been out of this crisis, or at least out of this bailout program.”
“Had we looked at the truth earlier, it would have been much easier to deal with than it is now. Had we looked at the truth, that we had a huge deficit, that we’d have to reform our state, we’d have to reform bureaucracy, we’d have to fight clientelism, fight corruption, reform our justice system, reform our education system, we would have been where we want to be but with much less pain,” he told Greek Reporter.
“I was a scapegoat but I never cared if I would be reelected,” he had said.