Socialist ministers rally behind premier, stress unity

Several ministers of the socialist government appeared to rally behind Greece’s struggling Prime Minister George Papandreou ahead of an emergency meeting of PASOK’s parliamentary group on Thursday, stressing the importance of unity.

Finance Minister George Papaconstantinou, whose possible replacement has dominated reshuffle speculation, said that maintaining political and economic stability were the government’s key priorities.

“At this critical time, stability is our key concern, maintaining stability for the country and to reassure our international partners,» he said, referring to the EU and the IMF.

Papaconstantinou ignored a hail of reporters’ questions about his possible removal from the Cabinet.

Labor Minister Louka Katseli, an outspoken Cabinet member who has clashed with Greece’s foreign creditors over some of the proposed austerity measures, told reporters that «the priority now is to tackle burning problems including unemployment.”

“I am certain that by supporting the prime minister we will manage to go forward and make the changes the country needs,» she said.

Transport Minister Dimitris Reppas called on ruling party MPs to focus on «making our great national problem a matter of personal concern, not making their personal concerns a national issue.”

Papandreou’s plans to hold a reshuffle on Thursday before seeking a vote of confidence from Parliament later in the week were upset after two PASOK deputies resigned their seats.

The resignations of Giorgos Floridis and Ektoras Nasiokas did not affect the government’s five-seat majority in Parliament, as the deputies gave up their seats, but put extra strain on Papandreou.

In response to the rising pressure, PASOK decided to hold an emergency session of the party’s parliamentary group to discuss what the government’s next steps should be.

Papandreou has admitted that he discussed the possibility of forming a coalition government with New Democracy on Wednesday, but talks fell through after «genuine efforts to create consensus» had been exploited by the main opposition party and turned into a «public relations exercise.”

Alternate Defense Minister Panos Beglitis said that the crisis meeting Thursday would not focus on appointing a new leader to rule PASOK. «We have a leader, we will be focusing on the problems we have to solve,» he said.

Christos Protopappas, the head of ruling PASOK’s parliamentary group, told private television channel Mega on Thursday that a Cabinet reshuffle was still on the agenda and that a vote of confidence in the new government would be held on Sunday.

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