Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras’ planned appointment of six new deputy ministers has sparked renewed speculation he’s planning a shakeup of his Cabinet, which he has repeatedly denied, and ired his coalition partners who said they weren’t informed.
The newspaper Kathimerini said the Premier will add the new assistants to the ministries that cover administrative reform, justice, public security, tourism and northern Greece and an undersecretary to the education ministry.
A number of political observers believe the reshuffle could take place after the Orthodox Easter which will be celebrated on Sunday, May 5. Some analysts said Samaras has been unhappy with the performance of some of his ministers as he goes about imposing more austerity measures on the orders of international lenders putting up $325 billion in two bailouts.
The change also breaks another campaign pledge by the New Democracy Conservative party leader, this one to reduce the number of ministers. One of his coalition partners, PASOK Socialist leader Evangelos Venizelos proposed a year ago to change the Greek constitution in order to reduce the number of ministries to 14 with no more than 10 under secretaries and to merge some ministries to boost the efficiency of bureaucracy. But the new plans have renewed belief that Samaras will reward supporters with political positions that aren’t needed.
Venizelos and Democratic Left (DIMAR) leader Fotis Kouvelis, who are partners in the government headed by the New Democracy Conservative chief Samaras said he didn’t consult with them before making the move.
“The government must be as streamlined and functional as possible, with emphasis on the ministries that have the most work to do in terms of reform and growth,” Venizelos aides told Kathimerini. When the coalition was formed after last June’s elections, the three parties agreed to form a 39-member government, which was considered to be unnecessarily large by some commentators at the time.
“It has been proved before in Greece that such a large ministerial lineup is ineffective and counterproductive,” said Andreas Papadopoulos, the DIMAR spokesman. “Apart from this, it may make it more difficult for the three parties to cooperate.”
Venizelos has already made it known that he wants PASOK, which, like Democratic Left, has no frontline politicians in the Cabinet, to participate more actively in the government. DIMAR has insisted that it would not accept its two candidates, Antonis Manitakis and Antonis Roupakiotis, being moved from the Administrative Reform and Justice ministries, respectively.
Sources close to Samaras said that the creation of six new posts was not related to reshuffle plans but part of the reorganization of ministries that Greece has been working on with the EU Task Force. They said that the prime minister is unlikely to make changes to the Cabinet before the troika has completed its next review, due to take place in June.