The Samaras Shuffle Under Way



Greek PM Antonis Samaras (L) with PASOK leader Evangelos Venizels
Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras (L) with his new ally and former rival, PASOK leader Evangelos Venizels

Prime Minister Antonis Samaras and PASOK’s Evangelos Venizelos were to meet on June 24 to discuss a shakeup in the Cabinet that will dump some of the Premier’s ministers and replace them with Socialists to reward Venizelos for backing his decision to shut down the national broadcaster ERT and fire all its 2,656 workers.

Venizelos was serving in a coalition with the New Democracy leader and the tiny Democratic Left (DIMAR) whose chief, Fotis Kouvelis, walked over the ERT issue, refusing to accept – as did Venizelos – a compromise to bring back some of the workers temporarily and finally obey a June 17 court order to restore the station’s signal. Samaras wants to replace ERT with a slimmed-down version to be called NERIT and staffed with 1000-1200 former ERT workers.

“The government went through a rough patch over the last few days but it stood on its feet and continues with renewed determination and much better cooperation,” Samaras told To Vima newspaper.

Kouvelis withdrew his two ministers – Administrative Reform Minister Antonis Manitakis and Justice Minister Antonis Roupakiotis – from the government following the breakdown of a third round of coalition talks aimed at mending the impasse over ERT.

The New Democracy-PASOK alliance of former rivals controls only 153 of the 300 seats in Parliament but a few of the 14 Independents say they will back Samaras’ implementation of more reforms demanded by international lenders and Kouvelis said he would consider doing so on a case-by-case basis.

Media reports said that PASOK would get one minister for every two from New Democracy and that Venizelos might be named Deputy Prime Minister and possibly even Foreign Minister to replace Dimitris Avramopoulos, who had voiced some dissent over Samaras’ handling of the ERT closure.

Among those expected to keep their posts are Development Minister Costis Hatzidakis, Public Order Minister Nikos Dendias, Tourism Minister Olga Kefaloyianni and Education Minister Constantinos Arvanitopoulos. Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras is also expected to remain in place.

ND deputies Kyriakos Mitsotakis and Makis Voridis are also rumored to be candidates for posts. Voridis bolted the far right-wing LAOS party to join New Democracy.