By George Gilson
The withdrawal of Movement for Change leader Fofi Gennimata from the party’s leadership race has triggered a chain reaction with three new candidates – Vasilis Kegeroglou, Pavlos Geroulanos, and Pavlos Christidis – throwing their hat in the ring, and now with reports over the last hours indicating that former prime minister George Papandreou is ready to step in to play a unifying role in the party.
He has reportedly been greatly pressured by key party cadres to enter the race and some say that he may be mulling the prospect of doing so under the right circumstances, possibly with an a priori groundswell of support from party cadres and the base.
The former PM, who is the son of the late Pasok founder and prime minister Andreas Papandreou, has by far the broadest and deepest influence among centre-left voters in the base of the party – which was renamed Movement for Change after Pasok suffered a crushing defeat in the 2015 general elections.
The party that in its halcyon days in 1981, when Andreas swept to power, garnered 48 percent of the popular vote, in 2015 got less than five percent.
Papandreou’s popularity among traditional Pasok voters was made perfectly clear when George Papandreou decided in 2004 that for the first time ever Pasok’s leader would be elected by members and friends of the party.
Papandreou was the sole candidate and received slightly over one million votes.
In the eyes of older party loyalists, Pasok has always been completely identified with the name Papandreou.
A statement issued by his press office today reflected the former PM’s characteristic strategic caution.
“Former Prime Minister George Papandreou, in an effort to pursue a coordinated and creative course that will lead to the creation of a grand Progressive Party, has requested and will have contacts with the Secretary of the Central Political Committee of the Movement for Change, Manolis Chrostodoulakis, the Secretary of the Parliamentary Group and candidate for the Movement for Change leadership, Vasilis Kegeroglou, and candidates Nikos Androulakis, Pavlos Geroulanos [once one of Papandreou’s closest associates], Haris Kastanidis [also a Papandreou stalwart], Andreas Loverdos, and Pavlos Christidis.
The forging of a climate of unity and consensus regarding the principles, values and ideals of the Progressive Party [as Pasok always described itself] and the creation of the preconditions for the greatest possible consultation with and participation of democratic citizens in intra-party procedures, is the necessary condition that will lead us to construct a strong party that will be a dynamic exponent of a progressive proposal for governance rather than a conservative one.
In this effort, we all have a duty to be dedicated, to participate, and to play the leading role.
The president of the Movement for Change, Fofi Gennimata, has been informed of this initiative.”
It is unclear whether the reference to “the greatest possible consultation with and participation of democratic citizens in intra-party procedures” suggests that he may once again propose that the leader be elected by members and friends of the party.