Greek finance minister to lead socialists at polls | News | DW | 19.03.2012
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Greek finance minister to lead socialists at polls

Greek Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos was elevated to the leadership of the socialist PASOK party on Sunday. The 55-year-old now faces the mammoth task of averting disaster in upcoming elections.

Venizelos takes the helm after the resignation of former Prime Minister George Papandreou from the position.

"We have re-established the confidence for a new departure. We are starting," Venizelos commented after assuming the leadership.

"People sent a strong message that PASOK is here, that PASOK hasn't lost its soul, that our target to win the [general] election is feasible," he told party members. "We will move forward together."

An estimated 200,000 party members took part in the vote, though Venizelos was the only standing candidate.

Venizelos, who has led Greece's marathon debt talks with international partners since June last year when he was named finance minister, is to resign his post to focus on snap elections expected in early May.

The socialists, who have ruled Greece for a combined two decades since the reintroduction of democracy in 1874, have seen their popularity plummet in recent years.

Papandreou was forced to step down from the premiership following public anger over a seemingly continuous stream of tax hikes and wage cuts as Greece struggled to contain a debilitating debt crisis.

Completion of a second international financial aid package for Greece will mean the end of the coalition government under technocrat Prime Minister Lucas Papademos, which was formed in November with a mandate to conclude the bailout and then hold elections.

dfm/ccp (AFP, Reuters)