Page last updated at 09:08 GMT, Monday, 9 February 2004

Greek socialists name Papandreou

By Richard Galpin
BBC Athens correspondent

Foreign Minister George Papandreou
Papandreou has a family legacy of leadership to live up to

Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou has been elected leader of the governing Socialist Party in an unprecedented election.

It follows the decision by the current prime minister, Costas Simitis, to step down next month.

Mr Papandreou, who was the only candidate for the leadership, received just over a million votes from party members and supporters.

Mr Papandreou will lead the party into an election in just four weeks' time.

Until now party officials have selected the leader.

Popular mandate

This was a better result than many in the Papandreou camp had dared to predict.

The million votes represent almost 10% of the country's entire population.

It gives Mr Papandreou exactly what he wanted - a broad popular mandate so he can implement radical reform of the Socialist Party, in particular removing the old guard who have been tainted by allegations of sleaze and complacency after two decades in government.

Despite Sunday's resounding endorsement, Mr Papandreou faces an uphill struggle in trying to win the national election on 7 March.

The opposition conservatives still enjoy a four point lead in the opinion polls.

The Socialist government is deeply unpopular and the electorate is clamouring for change.

Mr Papandreou has been a member of the government since the 1980s so he now has to convince a majority of voters that he really does represent a clean break from the past.

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