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Greek socialist party leader dies at 57 after battle with cancer

new greek parliament members attend a swearing in ceremony
Fofi Gennimata (C) attend a swearing in ceremony for the new members of parliament at the Greek Parliament, in Athens, Greece, on 17 July 2019. EPA-EFE/ORESTIS PANAGIOTOU

Fofi Gennimata, leader of Greece‘s socialist opposition Movement for Change, died on Monday after a long battle with cancer.

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

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

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

“Fofi was a fighter, battling against the health issues she faced with dignity,” Mitsotakis said in a statement. “She became a symbol of courage for all women, and all men, who are sorely tested by serious illness.”

Gennimata had her first cancer diagnosis in 2008.

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

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 appointed president of the Movement for Change, a coalition of centre-left parties that was formed around PASOK.

She was the daughter of Georgios Gennimatas, who was a founder member of PASOK, which was dominant in 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 unnecessary. You were the bright smile which touched our soul, our guide, our beacon in the dark. Thank you for the laughs and the journey. Part of my heart left today.”

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