ATHENS, Greece (AP) _ While Greece's 76-year-old premier lay in a hospital on life support, politicians haggled Tuesday over his party's refusal to even discuss a successor.

Within the Socialist party that Premier Andreas Papandreou founded in 1974, the only point of agreement is that he may no longer be capable of running the country, even if he recovers.

Many are concerned that the party's paralysis could undermine public faith in the Socialists' ability to run the country without their patriarch.

``Today Greek society, party members, friends and even opponents are waiting for the party to prove that it is in a position to govern,'' said Environment Undersecretary Elizabeth Papazoi.

Another Socialist deputy, Spyros Kaloudis, said, ``We must immediately elect a new prime minister as health reasons exclude the political presence of Andreas Papandreou.''

But potential candidates are keeping their heads down to avoid accusations that they are taking advantage of a sick old man, and the government quelled an attempt by Socialist deputies to replace Papandreou without his consent.

Under the constitution that Papandreou amended in 1985, the premier can only be replaced if he dies or resigns. He has shown no sign that he is willing to step down.

Machines have kept Papandreou alive since he was hospitalized with pneumonia on Nov. 20.

Doctors doubt Papandreou will ever recover enough to govern the country he first ruled from 1981 to 1989. He underwent major heart surgery in 1988 and returned to power despite frail health in 1993.

The question of a successor has apparently not been discussed with the premier. Doctors say he is lucid only for a few hours each day, and just a handful of people have seen him since he was admitted to the hospital.