PM poised for reshuffle

Prime Minister George Papandreou is expected to spend the next few days holed up on the island of Paros, where he will have meetings with his closest aides as he puts the finishing touches to a Cabinet reshuffle that is likely to be announced by the end of next week. Papandreou has spent eight days on the Cycladic island but much of the time has been taken up by talks with Interior Minister Yiannis Ragousis and State Minister Haris Paboukis, both confidants of the premier. Culture Minister Pavlos Geroulanos, another trusted member of Papandreou’s inner circle, is due to arrive on Paros today. The prime minister has been rumored to be considering a reshuffle for the past few weeks and, according to sources, is almost ready to announce what are expected to be fairly extensive changes rather than just minor tweaks to the lineup. It seems certain that Health Minister Mariliza Xenogiannakopoulou and Economy Minister Louka Katseli will be two of the highest-profile casualties in the reshuffle. Xenogiannakopoulou has been criticized for not getting to grips with what is a difficult but crucial portfolio, especially as there is great waste of public funds in the health sector. Katseli has also failed to impress in her role and has been involved in several disputes with Finance Minister Giorgos Papaconstantinou. Papandreou made headlines when he named his Cabinet last year as it included a record number of women, nine in total. However, there is a possibility that one more of these will lose her ministerial post in the upcoming reshuffle. It is rumored that Environment Minister Tina Birbili will be asked to run as PASOK’s candidate for the Attica region in the November 7 elections, which will be the first local polls since a Papandreou-inspired overhaul of local government that divides the country into 13 regions rather than 54 prefectures. It is likely that others will be moved out of government to run in the November polls. Deputy Health Minister Fofi Gennimata, who served as Athens-Piraeus prefect for several years, and Deputy Economy Minister Stavros Arnaoutakis are rumored to be two such candidates.