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Greek Socialists Pick Reformer as New Premier

January 19, 1996| From Reuters

ATHENS — Greece's ruling Panhellenic Socialist Movement elected Costas Simitis, an avid party reformer and mild-mannered technocrat, as the country's new prime minister Thursday.

Simitis, 59, defeated three other contenders and will serve out the term of party founder Andreas Papandreou, who resigned this week after two months in the hospital with lung and kidney failure.

"We will all continue to work together. We need everyone," Simitis pledged to Socialist deputies after the vote.

He won 86 votes to defeat Akis Tsohatzopoulos, Papandreou's closest lieutenant, in a second and final round. Tsohatzopoulos gained 75 votes. Six deputies abstained, and three were absent.

Simitis is one of Greece's most popular politicians and will be expected to lead the Socialists in the scheduled 1997 election. He studied law in Germany and economics in Britain, and is seen as a serious, if bland, technocrat who lacks Papandreou's charisma and ability to electrify a crowd.

His first challenge will be to prove that he can unite the factions within the Socialist party, which Papandreou founded in 1974.

This may be difficult given Papandreou's almost fanatical loyalists, who watched Simitis challenge the party leader over the past year in a persistent campaign for reform.

Indeed, Papandreou was due for a showdown with Simitis at a party meeting on Nov. 20, the day he was rushed to the hospital with pneumonia.

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