Greek Socialist Party leader dies at 57 after battle with cancer

Party of European Socialists (PES) President Sergei Stanishev (L) welcomes socialist PASOK party leader Fofi Gennimata during a meeting of European Socialists in Bratislava, Slovakia, September 16, 2016. REUTERS/Radovan Stoklasa/ File Photo

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ATHENS, Oct 25 (Reuters) – Fofi Gennimata, leader of the Greek socialist opposition Movement for Change, died on Monday after a long battle with cancer.

The death of Gennimata, who was due to turn 57 next month, was announced by Evangelismos Hospital where she had been receiving treatment since October 12.

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis was shocked to learn of Gennimata’s death, and a day of national mourning was declared on Wednesday, when his funeral will be held, his office said.

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Mitsotakis, who arrived in Saudi Arabia on Monday for a two-day visit, will change his schedule to return to Greece on Tuesday evening, he said. His planned tour of the Greek islands scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday was also canceled.

“Fofi was a fighter, fighting with dignity against the health challenges she faced,” Mitsotakis said in a statement. “She has become a symbol of courage for all women, and all men, who are hard hit by a serious illness.”

Gennimata was first diagnosed with cancer in 2008.

Tributes from across the political spectrum poured in for Gennimata, who had made public appearances until shortly before being hospitalized.

White roses were left at her seat in parliament as lawmakers observed a minute’s silence.

Gennimata was elected leader of the former ruling PASOK party in 2015, and in 2017 was named president of the Movement for Change, a coalition of center-left parties that formed around PASOK.

She was the daughter of Georgios Gennimatas, a founding member of PASOK, which dominated Greece in the 1980s and 1990s.

A mother of three, Gennimatas was first elected to parliament in 2000.

Pavlos Christidis, a close aide: “There are times when words are useless. You were the bright smile that touched our soul, our guide, our beacon in the dark. Thank you for the laughs and the journey. Part from my heart is gone today.”

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Reporting by Angeliki Koutantou and Michele Kambas, Editing by Timothy Heritage and Mark Heinrich

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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