Government conducts mini-reshuffle under pressure

TAGS: Politics

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras gave his cabinet a moderate overhaul on Wednesday, appointing Deputy Prime Minister Yiannis Dragasakis to the post of economy and development minister and bringing in veteran leftist Fotis Kouvelis as alternate defense minister.

The reshuffle was triggered by the resignation of two ministers earlier this week over a row involving state benefits.

Economy Minister Dimitris Papadimitriou quit late Monday after revelations that his wife Rania Antonopoulou, alternate minister for social solidarity, was receiving a rent allowance despite the couple’s relative affluence.

Tsipras’s chief aim appeared to be to limit the fallout from the mini-crisis without touching his core team as Greece is currently in talks with foreign auditors ahead of the country’s scheduled exit from its third bailout program in August.

It is thought that Tsipras selected Dragasakis and not Dimitris Liakos, a close aide who had been widely tipped for the post, to avoid making any waves in SYRIZA. Formerly a senior member of the Communist Party (KKE), Dragasakis is widely respected in SYRIZA and has a good insight into the progress of bailout talks with Greece’s creditors.

Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos, who has been spearheading the talks with auditors, kept his post, as did other key members of the cabinet.

The key surprise was the appointment as alternate defense minister of Fotis Kouvelis, ex-leader of Democratic Left and a former junior partner in a coalition government led by Antonis Samaras. The post he assumes is under Defense Minister Panos Kammenos, leader of the right-wing Independent Greeks, with whom Kouvelis has a less than harmonious relationship.

Current Alternate Defense Minister Dimitris Vitsas is to replace Migration Policy Minister Yiannis Mouzalas, who is leaving the government due to health problems.

Other changes include the appointments of Constantinos Stratis as deputy culture minister and Meropi Tzoufi as deputy education minister, replacing Costas Zouraris, who quit in January. Antonopoulou is to be replaced by Athanasios Iliopoulos, the head of the state Labor Inspectorate Squad.

The new cabinet is to be sworn in at 12.30 p.m. on Thursday.