Senior Greek judge named as caretaker leader

Thu, May 17, 2012, 01:00

ONE OF Greece’s most senior judges was named caretaker prime minister yesterday and will lead the country until June 17th, when Greeks will return to the polls in a fresh attempt to elect a government.

Panagiotis Pikrammenos, chief justice of the council of state, the country’s supreme administrative court, was sworn in as the country’s 184th prime minister by the Orthodox archbishop of Athens in the presence of President Karolos Papoulias, who selected him after party leaders failed to form a coalition government after nine days of wrangling.

Not a recognisable face for most Greeks, Mr Pikrammenos (67) succeeds the technocratic central banker Lucas Papademos to the post and his duties will be strictly limited to the organising of the elections.

While the majority of party leaders were in favour of Mr Papademos assuming the caretaker role, the president could not secure the unanimous support that this required.

The immediate response of many Greeks to their new prime minister was that his surname means “embittered”.

Mr Pikrammenos later quipped that his last name made him suited to be the last prime minister of the two-party political era that has dominated the country for three decades.

But most Greeks were focused on what the political uncertainty will mean for them personally and for the country.

Many have already made their way to the banks.

According to the head of the central bank, depositors withdrew around €700 million from banks on Monday alone.

However, the banks appeared no more busy than normal and it proved difficult to find people who would admit they had taken out their savings.

Assimakis, a DJ and performer in his 30s, said that he’ll be withdrawing whatever is left of his balance from the banks in the coming days.

“I’ve already been robbed by employers who never paid me and I’m not going to lose the rest as a result of the squabbling among politicians,” he remarked.

Meanwhile, party leaders have agreed that the 300 MPs elected on May 6th will not be paid for this parliamentary session.

Parliament will be sworn in today and it is expected to be dissolved by Saturday at the latest.

Up to 30 per cent of MPs could lose their seats in the coming election, as a poll published yesterday showed that support for the Radical Left Coalition (Syriza) continues to surge.

The VPRC/Epikaira survey put Syriza at 20.3 per cent, considerably ahead of conservative New Democracy (14.2 per cent) and socialist Pasok (10.9 per cent).

The anti-memorandum Independent Greeks, a New Democracy splinter, saw its support plummet to 3.7 per cent, while the Communist Party, which rejects all election scenarios and awaits the advent of what it calls “workers’ popular rule”, polled only 4.4 per cent. The moderate Democratic Left party polled 6.1 per cent.

The poll also found that 76 per cent of respondents believe Greece is moving “in the wrong direction”.

If the poll was replicated on election day, Syriza would still struggle to find a majority for its planned coalition of left-wing parties.

The last time Greece had a caretaker premier was in October 1989, when a supreme court judge was appointed after elections produced a deadlocked parliament.

The fresh elections he oversaw failed to produce a stable government, pushing Greece into holding its third general election in less than a year.