Leaders gear up for 2009

Greece’s political leaders sought to end their year by making plans for 2009, as Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis continued yesterday to consider his options ahead of a Cabinet reshuffle and PASOK chief George Papandreou tried, in vain, to set up a meeting with the Communist Party. Karamanlis held talks with New Democracy secretary Lefteris Zagoritis in what was believed to be a meeting about the reshuffle. Zagoritis told reporters that the pair discussed the party’s preparations for the European parliamentary elections in June. The ND secretary is widely tipped as being one of the current high-ranking party members who is not a member of the Cabinet that will find himself in charge of a ministry following Karamanlis’s changes. The previous conservative party secretary Evangelos Meimarakis is now defense minister. Speculation continued about who else might be joining the Cabinet with much of the talk focusing on former ministers and new faces who have not previously served in government. Sources said the reshuffle is likely to take place around January 10, though this might be delayed slightly if PASOK proposes that Parliament conduct a preliminary judicial inquiry into the Vatopedi Monastery land exchange. It is thought that Karamanlis will not want his changes to the Cabinet to be overshadowed by bickering in Parliament, especially as ND intends to abstain if the Socialists get the House to vote on the inquiry. The PASOK leader has also been trying to prepare the ground for his party’s continued rise in 2009 but received a rebuff from Communist Party leader Aleka Papariga yesterday. In response to an invitation for the two to hold talks, Papariga said, «There is nothing to talk about that would warrant a meeting between the two parties.» Papandreou, however, is likely to meet soon with Alekos Alavanos, who leads the Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) in Parliament, as he attempts to establish some common ground between the parties of the left ahead of a year that could bring early elections.

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