Papandreou edges toward reshuffle

Prime Minister George Papandreou will soon conduct a Cabinet reshuffle but has not yet decided if it will be before or after the government?s medium-term fiscal plan is voted through Parliament, sources told Kathimerini.

The two options being discussed by Papandreou and his closest advisers are either to shakeup his team of ministers as soon as possible, possibly even as early as this week, or to make changes to his Cabinet after the government?s economic proposals have been debated and voted on in Parliament. This would mean that the reshuffle would happen in early July.

Papandreou and his aides appear confident that PASOK MPs will not scupper the midterm fiscal plan in Parliament. The government has a six-seat majority and while it is expected that one or two deputies might vote against the proposals, which include further cuts to public spending and more tax hikes, there will not be a large rebellion.

However, the passage of the fiscal plan through Parliament will mark a crucial few days for the government. A parliamentary committee is due to begin reviewing the bill tomorrow. This process will last until the end of the week and the committee is due to sit again for a second review a week later. The draft law is likely to be submitted in Parliament on June 27 or 28 before a vote on June 30. It is possible that the vote will be delayed by a week.

It is expected that one of the casualties of the reshuffle will be Finance Minister Giorgos Papaconstantinou, who has been severely criticized by PASOK deputies in recent weeks, both because of the measures he has adopted and due to claims that he has failed to consult with them.

A number of people have been linked to the role of finance minister, including the former vice president of the European Central Bank Lucas Papademos, who has recently been acting as an informal adviser to Papandreou. However, sources suggested that the prime minister might opt to place one of the government?s better communicators in the post, which could mean either Regional Development Minister Michalis Chrysochoidis or Education Minister Anna Diamantopoulou taking over.

In an interview with Sunday?s To Vima newspaper, Papandreou said he was open to the idea of bringing people with ?wide appeal? into the government, suggesting that he may look to recruit ministers from outside of his party.

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