Cabinet reshuffle on the cards after election message

Prime Minister Antonis Samaras and his coalition partner Evangelos Venizelos are said to be planning a bold reshuffle to refresh the government and show that they have heeded the message sent in European Parliament elections on Sunday when leftist SYRIZA achieved a historic victory.

SYRIZA garnered 26.5 percent in the vote, leaving Samaras’s conservative New Democracy in second place with 22.7 percent while neofascist Golden Dawn got 9.4 percent. Elia (Olive Tree), the PASOK-backed center-left alliance, garnered 8 percent, with newcomer To Potami getting 6.6 percent, followed by the Communist Party (KKE) on 6 percent and Independent Greeks with 2.7 percent. Democratic Left, formerly the third party in the coalition, got a crushing 1.2 percent.

As parties assessed their victories and licked their wounds accordingly, government officials insisted that there would be no early elections after SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras reacted to his party’s win – the first by a leftist party in Greece – by calling for snap polls.

Tsipras on Monday repeated his call for national elections “as soon as possible” after visiting President Karolos Papoulias. Noting that the leftists had scored nearly four percentage points more than the coalition parties, Tsipras pointed to a “major disharmony between the public will and the representation in Parliament.“ “We should go to national elections as soon as possible, in an organized and calm manner, to restore democratic normality,“ he told reporters.

His demand was shot down almost immediately by government spokesman Simos Kedikoglou, who described it as an “unprecedented institutional aberration,” while PASOK leader Venizelos deemed it “unconstitutional.” Earlier, in a televised statement reacting to the vote results, Samaras railed that “those who tried to turn the European election into a plebiscite failed.”

The premier is due in Brussels on Tuesday, where he is to attend meetings with his European peers and with members of the European People’s Party. He is scheduled to meet with Venizelos in Athens on Thursday for talks expected to take stock of the government’s progress in enforcing reforms demanded by international creditors as well as discussing a cabinet reshuffle. One departure regarded as almost certain is that of Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras, who is expected to assume the top job at the Bank of Greece. Health Minister Adonis Georgiadis is also likely to be removed, as is Labor Minister Yannis Vroutsis, while Aris Spiliotopoulos, ND’s failed candidate for mayor of Athens, is expected to be among the different faces in the government.

As regards Greece’s new MEPs, the 21-member list had yet to be finalized by late last night. SYRIZA’s six MEPSs include 91-year-old World War II hero Manolis Glezos and Constantina Kuneva, a Bulgarian unionist who suffered serious injuries in a 2008 acid attack. ND’s six MEPs include journalist Maria Spyraki and the captain of Greece’s Euro 2004-winning soccer team, Theodoros Zagorakis, while Elia’s two MEPs include Eva Kaili. Golden Dawn is to send three MEPs, including Lambros Fountoulis, the father of one of the party members shot dead outside GD’s offices in Neo Iraklio, northern Athens, last November.