Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras carried out a light reshuffle on Friday, as had been long expected, promoting Giorgos Katrougalos to foreign minister and bringing in officials who had served under former socialist premier George Papandreou as deputy ministers, amid mounting speculation of likely snap polls in May.
The appointment of Thanos Moraitis and Angelos Tolkas as deputy ministers – the first at the Infrastructure and Transport Ministry and the second at the Migration Ministry – prompted an angry response from the Movement for Change (KINAL) as both had served under Papandreou.
“Tsipras’s attempt to loot our party will fail,” KINAL said, adding that the premier’s moves recall “third-division soccer corruption.”
The government did not respond directly to the criticism but the move did not provoke much surprise as Tsipras recently reached out to the center-left, suggesting that he would seek to create his own “progressive” alliances if parties are not open to cooperations.
The reshuffle was also an opportunity for Tsipras to hand over the role of foreign minister which he assumed last October after Nikos Kotzias quit the cabinet following a clash with Tsipras’s then junior coalition partner Panos Kammenos over the Prespes name deal.
Sia Anagnostopoulou, a SYRIZA MP and former deputy education minister, is to take Katrougalos’s old position as alternate foreign minister, handling European affairs.
Tsipras also replaced two deputy ministers who are SYRIZA candidates for mayoral posts in the country’s two largest cities ahead of local authority elections scheduled for May along with European Parliament elections. Eleftheria Hatzigeorgiou was appointed deputy minister for Macedonia-Thrace, replacing Katerina Notopoulou, who is to run for Thessaloniki mayor on the leftists’ ticket.
Hatzigeorgiou is a close friend of Tsipras who previously headed the office of government spokesman Dimitris Tzanakopoulos.
Constantinos Barkas, a SYRIZA MP for Preveza, was appointed deputy minister for social security, taking over from Thanasis Iliopoulos, who is SYRIZA’s choice for Athens mayor.
The new ministers are to be sworn in on Monday.