The Samaras Reshuffle Shuffles Along, Bakoyianni On Board



Greek Premier Antonis Samaras (L) when he was still talking to Dora Bakoyianni
Greek Premier Antonis Samaras (L) when he was still talking to Dora Bakoyianni

A long pending Cabinet shakeup by Prime Minister Antonis Samaras is reportedly set to take place, and a former minister, Dora Bakoyianni may be in line for either Finance Minister or as a European Commissioner.

The two, who had barely spoken since she returned to the party two years ago after leaving to form her own party when she lost a battle to Samaras to be New Democracy’ leader, met on June 6 to talk about the possibilities.

Besides a raft of new ministers he wants to put in place in the wake of being beaten in the European Parliament elections by the major opposition Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA), Samaras needs a replacement for General Secretary of Revenues Haris Theoharis, who quit after being blistered publicly by Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras.

Stournaras reportedly will be replaced as well, although he could be appointed Governor of the Bank of Greece to replace Giorgos Provopoulos, whose term is up this month. Samaras said to be considering giving the finance job to Bakoyianni, who has no background in economics, although it was reported she could be named the country’s representative on the European Commission.

Bakoyianni had quit New Democracy in a huff and formed her own party, which got almost no public support, and returned to the fold although she had been buried and left out of the Cabinet in the Samaras Administration, in which he appointed a number of PASOK Socialists who joined a coalition to give him enough votes to control Parliament.

The shuffle, which has been put off several times, and now may take place on June 9, although that’s not certain. The Finance Minister’s job is the highest profile spot and led Stournaras to tangle frequently with the country’s international lenders, the Troika of the European Union-International Monetary Fund-European Central Bank (EU-IMF-ECB).

The newspaper Kathimerini said that Samaras is planning only some tweaking and not a major shakeup and that Defense Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos, State Minister Dimitris Stamatis, Tourism Minister Olga Kefaloyianni, Infrastructure Minister Michalis Chrysochoidis, Environment Minister Yiannis Maniatis, Administrative Reform Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and possibly Health Minister Adonis Georgiadis are either expected to keep their current positions or retain a place in the cabinet. It had been reported Georgiadis was going to be ousted though.

Stournaras on June 6 went after SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras for referring to the finance minister in an interview with French daily Le Monde as being “imposed by Berlin,” referring to Germany, which is the biggest contributor to 240 billion euros ($327 billion) in two Troika bailouts, but which insisted on harsh austerity measures in return.

“It is a shame that he attacks the Greek finance minister in an interview with a foreign newspaper using such language,” said Stournaras. “He is consciously doing harm to his country.”

SYRIZA poked fun at the government over the departure of Theoharis, who took a position that was created on demand of the Troika and had a five-year term.

Theoharis denied he was squeezed out but SYRIZA didn’t believe that, saying it was a cover story. “He could not tear up the memorandums, so he tore up Theoharis,” said SYRIZA spokesman Panos Skourletis in reference to a speech Samaras made before the May 25 European Parliament elections, during which he claimed to be “tearing up” Greece’s bailout agreements on a daily basis.

Theoharis insisted that he had not done anything wrong during his 18 months in the position. “I did my job better than anyone else has during the last few decades and better than anyone could have done under the circumstances.” But he didn’t say why he quit though.