PM ponders sweeping changes

Up to 14 ministers and deputy ministers could be removed from the government in an imminent reshuffle, sources said yesterday, as PASOK sought to distance itself from a possible collaboration with New Democracy while trying to smooth over relations with the Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA). Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis looks set to introduce the Cabinet changes in early January after seeing ND slip 6 percent behind PASOK in an opinion poll carried out by Public Issue for Sunday’s Kathimerini. Worryingly for the premier, PASOK leader George Papandreou is also, for the first time, seen as a more suitable prime minister than Karamanlis. Sources said Karamanlis will spend Christmas in Athens as he ponders possible changes. As many as five ministers and up to nine deputy ministers could find themselves out of a job by the end of the process. The shake-up is likely to be accompanied by a government effort to present itself in a positive light, with particular emphasis on the social aspect of its work, in the health and education sectors, for example. Speaking at the Athens Chamber of Commerce and Industry yesterday, Karamanlis warned that 2009 would be a tough year for Greece, as the consequences of the international economic crisis are expected to hit the country. PASOK, meanwhile, rejected suggestions, made on Friday by two of its most senior MPs, Theodoros Pangalos and Christos Verelis, that the Socialists could cooperate with the conservatives to provide ministers for some posts in a bid to see Greece through its current crisis. The party’s spokesman Giorgos Papaconstantinou also distanced PASOK from criticism of SYRIZA by Pangalos, who claimed that its leaders, Alekos Alavanos and Alexis Tsipras, should «stop behaving like schoolboys.»

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