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Venizelos set to be Greek Socialist leader

Updated: 2012-03-12 11:13
( Xinhua)

ATHENS - Greek Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos will be the sole candidate for the leadership of socialist PASOK party in internal elections on March 18, the party announced on Sunday at the end of a party assembly.

Other candidates in the contest to succeed former Prime Minister George Papandreou at the party top post, such as former Citizens' Protection Minister Christos Papoutsis, failed to secure the minimum threshold of signatures demanded, therefore Venizelos will run unopposed.

"We owe Greek people a major thank you for their sacrifices," said Venizelos addressing the assembly in a reference to the acute debt crisis that over the past two years threatens Greece with a catastrophic default that could hit global economy.

"We also owe them a major sorry for the past mistakes we made," he added.

Venizelos repeated that the successful completion of the Greek debt swap plan, which was announced on Friday, opens a window of opportunity to counter the crisis and lay the foundations for a stronger Greece.

The so-called Private Sector Involvement (PSI) scheme that has the backing of European Union and International Monetary Fund lenders is expected to ease the Greek state burden load by one third and unlock further international financing to Athens.

But the painful austerity measures attached have been met with strong reactions by a part of Greek citizens who over the past few months attack politicians verbally and physically.

An elderly pensioner, member of PASOK party, approached Venizelos during the assembly and pelted him with yoghurt, complaining about the cutbacks on his pension.

Addressing the assembly as party leader for last time, Papandreou expressed confidence that Greece is on the right course to overcome the debt crisis, stressing that he never regretted the hard decisions he took over the past two years, despite the political cost.

Papandreou formally resigned from the premiership last November to make way for the formation of the interim coalition administration under technocrat Lucas Papademos which is to head the country to early general elections in late April or early May, according to the latest information.

Socialists who easily won the 2009 general elections have seen their ratings falling to record low lately due to the austerity drive.

Conservative New Democracy party which also supports the transitional government, leads in all opinion polls, but most probably will not secure a parliamentary majority to form a one-party government.