PM ponders next moves

Prime Minister George Papandreou is set to put thoughts of national politics aside for a few days to consider his party’s list of candidates for the November local elections, which, sources said, is likely to see some members of the government head for regional posts, triggering a Cabinet reshuffle. Papandreou and several of his ministers have headed for the island of Paros on vacation, where they are expected to discuss the various permutations with regards to who will represent PASOK in the municipal and regional polls as well as what the new Cabinet will look like. In a feeble attempt to quash days of mounting rumors, government spokesman Giorgos Petalotis yesterday suggested that there was no reason for Papandreou to conduct a reshuffle. However, comments by other members of his government indicated that they are certain he will soon announce a new formation of ministers. «It is very likely that there will be some changes in the government,» said Deputy Education Minister Evi Christofilopoulou yesterday. «We hear that the prime minister will use some current members of the Cabinet as well as MPs in local government.» Papandreou is due back in Athens on August 16 and is expected to finalize PASOK’s lineup for the November 7 local elections so that it can be announced on September 3. The prime minister has to decide by then whether he will carry out a minor reshuffle, simply replacing members of his government that have been posted to municipalities and prefectures or whether he will conduct a more wide-ranging shake-up that will steel PASOK for what promises to be a turbulent time ahead, given the economic reforms that need to be pushed through in the fall. At the same time, New Democracy leader Antonis Samaras is also considering which members of the conservative party to throw into the fray for the November polls. It will be his first election encounter since winning the ND leadership last year and will be a significant opportunity to give his party a boost after months of trailing PASOK in the opinion polls.