Samaras sworn in as 185th Greek PM


GREECE’S NEW conservative prime minister will announce today the line-up of his cabinet, which is not expected to contain any MPs from the two parties that are supporting his government.

Antonis Samaras, who leads the New Democracy party, was sworn in yesterday as the country’s 185th prime minister by the Orthodox archbishop of Athens in the presence of President Karolos Papoulias.

“I ask the Greek people for patriotism, solid national unity and trust,” Mr Samaras said shortly afterwards. “I will ask the new government that will be formed tomorrow to work hard so that we can offer tangible hope to our people.”

Mr Samaras clinched the position after the leaders of the socialist Pasok and the moderate Democratic Left parties confirmed that they would support his government, which will have a comfortable majority of 28 in the 300-seat parliament.

However, the new government will be more a government of co- operation than a coalition in the strict sense after New Democracy’s partners said that they would not nominate their MPs as ministers.

Although he faced considerable opposition from his parliamentary party, the Pasok leader Evangelos Venizelos told his MPs that he would only consider nominating figures associated with the party for government portfolios.

He reportedly named George Zanias, Yannis Stournaras and Tasos Giannitsis, all ministers in the present caretaker government, in this regard.

The Democratic Left ruled out any cabinet involvement altogether, although its leader, Fotis Kouvelis, insisted that he would approve all nominations to the government.

However, Mr Kouvelis’s other demand, a joint programme for government, had not been released as of last night.

Similarly, little was heard yesterday about Mr Venizelos’s idea for a cross-party team of specialists to be set up to seek revisions to the country’s bailout conditions.

Reflecting party concerns, the reporting in the Greek media on the new government was dominated by speculation about who would take seats at the cabinet.

Although they will not sit around the cabinet table, the leaders of the incoming government’s junior partners are expected to accompany Mr Samaras to next week’s European Union summit in Brussels, in an effort to drum up support among their respective European parties for Greece’s bailout conditions to be eased.

Shortly after his swearing-in, Mr Samaras held a meeting to discuss Greece’s representation at today’s Eurogroup meeting in Luxembourg.

Attending were Mr Venizelos and Mr Kouvelis, as well as outgoing caretaker finance minister George Zanias and his likely successor, Vasilis Rapanos. He is the chairman of the National Bank, the country’s largest lender.

Local media reported last night that Mr Zanias would represent his country at the Luxembourg meeting.

Originally an academic at Athens University, Mr Rapanos has held various economic, administrative and banking posts under previous Pasok governments and was a close confidante of former prime minister Costas Simitis.

A Harvard-trained economist, Mr Samaras has spent his entire professional life in politics. He was elected MP at the age of 26 in 1977, a year after graduating.

He was finance minister for three months in 1989, in the country’s first coalition government after the restoration of democracy in 1974. One of his co-ministers was Mr Kouvelis, who held the justice brief.

Groomed for the New Democracy leadership in the early 1990s, Mr Samaras ruined his chances after accusing his mentor, prime minister Konstantinos Mitsotakis, of being prepared to compromise in the naming dispute with northern neighbour Macedonia, which Greece claimed had irredentist aspirations over its northern territories.

After Mr Mitsotakis sacked him in 1992, Mr Samaras went on to found a short-lived splinter party, returning to the conservative fold 12 years later.