February 12, 2004

12 February 2004: Four days after more than one million Pasok faithful voted him party president, George Papandreou triggers another torrent in the ruling socialist party ranks with his surprise recruitment of two maverick neoliberal defectors from the conservative New Democracy opposition. Papandreou granted former ND ministers Stephanos Manos (C) and Andreas Andrianopoulos two of the six preferential seats on the party's 'statewide' ticket ahead of the general elections on March 7. Papandreou's decision effectively gave the two conservatives a free ride on the statewide ticket, where their seats in the new parliament were virtually guaranteed on the

basis of the party's overall percentage rather than the many thousands of personal votes the other candidates strive to muster with arduous and costly campaigning. At the same time Papandreou attempted to appease leftwing critics by balancing the opening to the right with an offer of two more state seats to leftist politicians Maria Damanaki (photo) and Mimis Androulakis (inset).Both are former communist deputies who later served as MPs in the Left Coalition party. Damanaki, a former Left Coalition leader who has long courted Pasok, resigned her seat as a Left Coalition deputy last year and had said she would not stand for election this time around. Since his last parliamentary term as a Left Coalition deputy in the late 1980s, the diminutive Androulakis has authored a couple of controversial novels which raised the ire of conservative Orthodox Christians while hosting a talk show at a private radio station. To enact Papandreou's vision of direct democracy, Pasok changed its charter at the February 6 party convention to allow the leader's election not just by card-carrying party members but by the general public of Pasok members and 'friends', potential voters. Greece's independent Personal Data Protection Authority issued a ruling that it was unconstitutional for parties to keep a database of individuals who are not party members, forcing Pasok to brand the voters in the leadership ballot as 'momentary' party members. But the Greek electorate remained unimpressed by Papandreou's political innovations, giving ND a resounding victory (45.37 percent of the vote) in the March 4 polls, with a five-point lead over Pasok (40.55 percent). Three years later, Papandreou is still striving to bolster his sagging popularity as wannabe premier by challenging Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis to call an early election

Dimitris Yannopoulos

(Posting date 16 February 2007)

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