NEWS

Party politics dog search for new PM and cabinet

Greece?s efforts to form a short-term coalition government and appoint an interim prime minister appear to have been undermined by internal party politics as the search for a new administration enters a third day.

Former European Central Bank Vice President Lucas Papademos was the favorite to be appointed but despite reports on Tuesday that he was set to take up the post, sources close to the Harvard professor said that he has not been contacted by anyone despite being in Greece for the last two days.

Late on Tuesday night, the names of PASOK veteran Apostolos Kaklamanis and parliamentary speaker Filippos Petsalnikos were linked to the job but both men denied that they had been approached.

The latest figure to be associated with the premiership is the president of the European Court of Justice, Vassilis Skouris. The judge has served in two previous governments. When contacted by Skai TV, Skouris’s office said he did not wish to comment on the speculation.

Government spokesman Angelos Tolkas told Skai TV that the new prime minister and government would be announced after noon on Wednesday.

It is not clear what has led to Papademos?s candidacy faltering but reports have suggested that Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos blocked his appointment. Papademos is thought to want to bring several of his own appointments to the cabinet. Venizelos, who allegedly wants to remain as finance minister, reportedly objected to this.

Sources close to Venizelos denied that he vetoed Papademos?s candidacy and suggested that the former central banker was never a front runner for the role of prime minister.

Another obstacle to agreement between New Democracy and PASOK on the staffing and tasks of the interim government emerged on Tuesday evening when conservative leader Antonis Samaras objected to demands for him to give written commitments to the eurozone and the International Monetary Fund.

Samaras objected to demands from Brussels for the ND leader, as well as outgoing Prime Minister George Papandreou, Bank of Greece Governor Giorgos Provopoulos and the next prime minister and finance minister to sign a commitment to uphold existing agreements, including the new bailout agreed last month.

European Economic and Monetary Affairs Commissioner Olli Rehn said without the signed documents, Greece would not receive the loan installment of 8 billion euros it is expecting.

?It is essential that the entire political class is now restoring the confidence that had been lost in the Greek commitment to the EU-IMF program,? said Rehn.

?It is essential that a new government will express its explicit and unequivocal commitment in writing concerning all the decisions taken by the 17 euro area member states on October 27,? he said.

A European Commission source told Kathimerini English Edition that no specific text for the Greek officials to sign has been suggested but that it would have to provide an explicit commitment to the October 27 deal and the measures proposed by the EU and IMF as part of the current bailout.

Samaras reportedly came under intense pressure on Tuesday from some hardline elements in his party that are displeased with ND?s involvement in the coalition because they oppose the terms of the bailout and feel that being associated with unpopular austerity will damage the party.

Samaras insisted his verbal commitment should be enough to assure Greece?s lenders. ?There is such a thing as national dignity,? he said. ?I have repeatedly explained that, in order to protect the Greek economy and the euro, the implementation of the October 26 agreement is inevitable.?

ND sources insisted the standoff would not damage coalition talks. Samaras is expected to write to the European Commission and eurozone officials to explain that he is committed to the existing agreements and fiscal targets but wants to reserve the right to change the policy mix.

Before elections in Portugal earlier this year, conservative leader Pedro Passos Coelho signed a document committing to the implementation of the already existing loan memorandum adopted by the outgoing Socialist government but allowing for minor policy changes, based on the troika?s quarterly reports.