Prime Minister Antonis Samaras reshuffled his cabinet for the second time in two years, naming a new finance minister, as he closed Parliament early for the summer break.
Economics professor and banker Gikas Hardouvelis will be the new Finance Minister, replacing Yannis Stournaras, who negotiated Greece’s increasingly tougher line toward the Troika – the European Commission, the IMF and the European Central Bank. Stournaras has been nominated to become governor of the Bank of Greece.
The cabinet reshuffle will give a new boost to the difficult job before the government, said Antonis Klapsis, head of research for the Konstantinos Karamanlis Institute for Democracy in Athens.
“Parliament is not actually shutting down. It only adopts a summer program splitting in three so that MPs can take some time off. The reaction has been much fuss about nothing,” Klapsis told SETimes.
But many in the blogosphere say the early release will stifle debate about how economic reforms and further austerity are conducted.
A key challenge for Hardouvelis will be to handle politically sensitive issues such as the second reform of the pension system due later this year, according to blogger Macropolis.
“It is questionable, though, how much room for manoeuvre Hardouvelis will have given that Greece remains under strict fiscal monitoring and its public revenue and spending targets are more or less fixed. This makes his role in the negotiations with the eurozone for further debt relief due to take place after the summer even more significant,” Macropolis said.
Other bloggers said the government reshuffle is tantamount to playing political musical chairs while at the same time parliament shutdown stifles the debate on the government’s goals and policies.
The news as to why the Parliament closed is totally incomprehensible to us, said hellasfrappe. “We are overwhelmed with anger and disgust.”
Still others suggested Samaras’ moves are political in nature, and are a reflection of the results of the local and EU parliament elections as well as the rise of the opposition SYRIZA party.
Samaras’ New Democracy party came second to SYRIZA in the elections for EU parliament on May 25th. “Samaras is speaking about his new government goals — ‘to exit the loan agreements’ — and blamed the ‘faint-hearted’ and ‘misery-supporting’ Greeks [of SYRIZA] for not believing that Greece is exiting the memorandums of understanding,” keeptalkinggreece said.
Samaras reshuffled the government in order to find a successor for Stournaras that will do a better job of balancing the finance ministry’s role with that of the government’s political interests, he said.
But people are right to criticize the Parliament shutdown because such an approach may lead to losing trust in the political system, said Alex Sakellariou, a sociologist at Panteion University in Athens.
“The government wants to shut down parts of public sector and fire people, people in the private sector are also fired and this new [government] synthesis has five or six additional members. It seems quite contradictory,” Sakellariou told SETimes.
(Used by permission of Southeast European Times, www.setimes.com)