By George Gilson

The centre-left Movement for Change Party (KINAL, formerly Pasok) today approved and certified six candidates for the party leadership race after examining the signatures submitted in support of each candidate.

The six candidates approved are, in alphabetical order: MEP Nikos Androulakis, Athens City Councillor Pavlos Geroulanos, Thessaloniki MP Haris Kastanidis, Athens Second District MP and KINAL parliamentary representative Andreas Loverdos, former PM George Papandreou, and party spokesman Pavlos Christidis.

Each of the candidates submitted the requisite number of signatures of party or Central Committee members yesterday and their candidacies were approved today by the party’s Committee on Ethics, the Charter and Certification.

All six satisfied the conditions of gathering either 15 percent of the members of the party’s Central Committee or 5,000 members’ signatures.

There will be candidates’ debates – as yet unscheduled – ahead of the 5 December first round of voting.

KINAL leader Fofi Gennimata, who pulled out of the race for health reasons, has decided not to publicly support any candidate but declared she will continue to work for the unity of the party.

Papandreou’s candidacy threw the electoral process into a tailspin, with one candidate (MP Vasilis Kegeroglou) withdrawing from the race and the other candidates feverishly revising their strategies and regrouping.

MP Andreas Loverdos, who has said that if elected he will rename the party Pasok, had the most combative and audacious reaction to Papandreou’s candidacy, and effectively depicted himself as the only candidate that, following in Andreas Papandreou’s footsteps, can make the party great again.

He went as far as to visit the ancestral village of the Papandreou family, Kalentzi in Achaia Prefecture, the birthplace of the late prime minister Georgios Papandreou (George Papandreou’s grandfather) to mark as he said, standing before a statue of Andreas Papandreou, a new beginning for the party on the anniversary of Pasok’s 1981 victory.

The name Papandreou has a mystical charm for the old Pasok base as George Papandreou’s father Andreas Papandreou founded and led it for over three decades, sweeping to power with 48 percent of the popular vote in 1981.

Yet, Pasok was annihilated in the 2015 general election and the lion’s share of its base migrated politically to left-wing SYRIZA.

The challenge for the next party leader will be to secure – to the extent possible the return to centre-left KINAL, which may be renamed Pasok by the next leader, of disgruntled SYRIZA voters who were disappointed by its false promises of abolishing Greece’s bailout memorandums and then its over-taxing of the middle class. Polls show that most Greek are dissatisfied by the party’s opposition tactics and perceived lack of an alternative political programme.

That effectively means that PM Kyriakos Mitsotakis and ruling New Democracy, which is courting centrist and centre-left voters but also hard-core right-wingers – represented in the government by Interior Minister Makis Voridis, Health Minister Thanos Plevris, and Development Minister Adonis Georgiadis – and the new KINAL leader will be pitted against each other in a struggle to attract SYRIZA voters.

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