June 21. 2024. 7:11

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‘Drums of war’ in Greek socialist party ahead of elections

An internal failure to agree on who to partner with in a potential future Greek government coalition has caused turmoil within the socialist Pasok party ahead of May’s elections.

Pasok ranks third in polls behind conservative New Democracy (EPP) and leftist Syriza (EU Left), who will likely face a neck-and-neck race.

Analysts in Athens suggest that Pasok will play the kingmaker’s role in forming the next government, considering that a new electoral law will apply, making it essentially impossible to avoid a coalition government.

In the first round, due in May, a proportional system will apply, while in the second, a month later, the parties will need to reach 37-38% of the vote to be able to form a government.

However, picking New Democracy or Syriza as a coalition partner is not easy for Pasok’s leader Nikos Androulakis.

In this case, he said he would form a coalition government but with neither New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis nor opposition Syriza chief Alexis Tsipras as prime minister.

Androulakis also stressed that the next prime minister should be a “political” personality and not a “technocrat”.

If his party gets low support, he said, “unfortunately, it will change the environment of political decisions”.

EURACTIV understands that poor election results for Pasok will mean that the socialists will not have a big say regarding the person who will lead the government.

Internal opposition

Androulakis’ “neither Mitsotakis nor Tsipras” statement prompted the reaction of Andreas Loverdos, an influential socialist politician often expressing positions close to conservative New Democracy.

Greek media quoted sources from Pasok leadership as saying that it is a “political paradox” that Andreas Loverdos shares similar concerns with the ruling New Democracy party’s spokesperson Yiannis Oikonomou.

Oikonomou described as “institutional disrespect and politically outrageous” the Pasok leader’s decision to pick a prime minister after the elections.

The Pasok leader’s statement is not considered a coincidence as this week he took part in the Party of European Socialists pre-summit meeting, and many interpreted it as a message to both Brussels and Athens.

What the EU socialists say

For their part, EU socialists expressed their deep frustration with New Democracy after it was revealed last summer that Androulakis’ phone was bugged by Greek secret services, which are under the personal control of PM Mitsotakis.

The “Greek Watergate” scandal has since been an open wound for the New Democracy – Pasok relations.

Together with centrist Renew Europe, the Greens and the EU Left, the socialists took the initiative and put a debate over the scandal in the European Parliament’s plenary last February.

On a political level, EU socialists avoid taking a public position on which party Pasok should collaborate with.

However, after the wiretapping scandal was revealed, Iratxe García, the leader of the Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament, told EURACTIV in an interview that “Greece needs a political change”.

EU socialist chief: Greece needs political change after ‘Watergate’ scandal

Political change is much needed in Greece after it was found that the phone of socialist opposition leader Nikos Androulakis was bugged by the national secret services, Iratxe García, the leader of the Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament, told EURACTIV.

Alexis Tsipras, the leader of Syriza, which is affiliated with the EU Left, is always invited as an observer in PES summits.

“Pasok is our member, but we are on the same page with Tsipras,” a PES source told EURACTIV in April 2022 on the sidelines of an EU socialists meeting in Brussels.

Tsipras has made it publicly clear that he wants to form a coalition with progressive forces, including Pasok.

Before the elections for the Pasok leadership in December 2021, Udo Bullmann, a German social democrat MEP from SPD, defended the end of grand coalitions between socialists and conservatives.

“We have to build progressive majorities wherever it is possible. The grand coalition has traditionally been an alliance of last resort,” Bullmann told EURACTIV.

“We must find new alliance partners; may they be in the liberal spectrum or on the left for reform, progress and a social-ecological turn-around. We have seen that a grand coalition may lead to deadlock and missed opportunity, also in the European sphere,” he added.

In more recent statements to EURACTIV, he said he “trusted” the Greek socialist party to make the “right choices”.

(Sarantis Michalopoulos | EURACTIV.com)