New faces and trusted aides are unveiled in Karamanlis’s Cabinet

Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis unveiled yesterday his new Cabinet, which contained 17 new faces out of 40 ministers and deputies but was also characterized by the ministers who held on to their posts. There were no surprises in the team of top ministers, as Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis, Defense Minister Evangelos Meimarakis, State Minister Theodoros Roussopoulos and Finance Minister Giorgos Alogoskoufis were all reappointed. Alogoskoufis, whose economic record is credited with helping to secure the poll victory, has managed to bring budgets to below the 3 percent EU limit and kept the economy growing at 4.4 percent, one of the fastest rates in the eurozone. Karamanlis also merged several ministries, including the Interior and Public Order ministries and the Aegean and Merchant Marine ministries, reducing the number of departments from 18 to 16. The new Cabinet reflects policy continuity while also suggesting a new start in such sensitive areas as education and public order - the ministry that was heavily criticized following wildfires that devastated large areas of Greece and killed more than 75 people during the summer. Senior government sources said that Karamanlis is also acting on the message sent by voters in Sunday's elections, calling for further reforms to be implemented. Giorgos Souflias remains at the Public Works and Environment Ministry and Dimitris Avramopoulos at Health. Prokopis Pavlopoulos will continue to head the beefed-up Interior Ministry. The former chief of the armed forces, Panayiotis Hinofotis, will be one of his deputies but will be in charge of public order matters. There was no place in the new Cabinet for former Public Order Minister Vyron Polydoras. Former Tourism Minister Fanni Palli-Petralia was also dropped, replaced by younger MP Aris Spiliotopoulos, a former party spokesman. Sophia Kalantzakou was appointed as deputy employment minister, as the number of woman in the Cabinet dropped from four to two. Another change was Marietta Giannakou, who was previously head of the Education Ministry. Giannakou, who faced strong opposition over tertiary sector reforms and the the contents of a sixth-grade history book, did not get enough support on Sunday to be elected as an MP. She has been replaced by Evripidis Stylianidis, formerly deputy foreign minister. Christos Folias was named development minister, replacing Dimitris Sioufas, who has been nominated as parliamentary speaker. Michalis Liapis, formerly transport minister, takes the Culture Ministry, replacing Giorgos Voulgarakis, who was shifted to the Merchant Marine Ministry, which has also taken on island policy. Liapis's replacement is the former MEP Costis Hatzidakis, who is another of the younger generation of conservative politicians given a place in the government. The prime minister had pledged during the election campaign to inject new blood into his Cabinet if re-elected. Karamanlis appears to have upped the number of key positions taken by ministers from northern Greece as a response to strong support gained in the region by the far-right Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS). The Cabinet is expected to be sworn in by President Karolos Papoulias today. Meanwhile, PASOK leader George Papandreou attempted yesterday to fend off his critics in the face of a challenge for the leadership from MP Evangelos Venizelos. «This democratic party has the power and the processes to find a solution based on the principles and values that unite us,» he said in his first televised statement since early Monday when he conceded defeat in the election. Papandreou also hit out at the forces he believes are trying to push him out, following the airing of opinion polls by two TV channels yesterday that suggested Venizelos was far more popular than Papandreou. «PASOK cannot be manipulated,» said Papandreou. «The Greek people, and nobody else, will decide who governs this land and I am sure that all the democratic citizens and party members will guard our political autonomy, institutions and dignity.» Papandreou also took a swipe at former leader and Prime Minister Costas Simitis, who agreed on Monday to act as a «guarantor» of the leadership election. «The party apparatus is the guarantor of this process, as is the president,» said the PASOK leader. «There is no need for more guarantors.» Less than a minute after Papandreou had finished his speech, Venizelos appeared on TV to give his reaction. «I am a supporter of political autonomy... but to achieve this as people and as parties we have to represent the people who feel they are not represented by the current political dialogue,» said Venizelos. But the Thessaloniki MP cast doubt on Papandreou's assertion that as PASOK president he could guarantee that the leadership race would be transparent. «Mr Papandreou can distinguish between the role of the president and that of a candidate for the presidency, who cannot act as a referee in the process since he is part of a collective democratic competition.» Venizelos later revealed that he bumped into Papandreou in Thessaloniki early on Sunday and refused to rule out running for the party leadership when questioned by the PASOK leader. Venizelos has challenged Papandreou to a televised debate to give PASOK members and «friends,» who can sign up on the day of a leadership vote, a better idea of where the two men stand on a range of political issues. PASOK's political council is due to meet tomorrow to discuss the matter. The party's national council is likely to meet this weekend to set a date for an extraordinary council meeting, probably in three or four weeks, where the candidates for the leadership can set out their positions. The vote is likely to take place the following week.