PM’s late-night suspense

Prime Minister George Papandreou was expected to announce a Cabinet reshuffle late last night, just a day after PASOK revealed its candidates for the November 7 local elections. The two events were directly linked, as Papandreou had tried to tempt several members of his Cabinet to run for local government in a bid to strengthen PASOK’s hand for the municipal and regional authority polls. However, his failure to convince ministers to leave national politics led to the Socialists announcing what some party members see as a distinctly weak lineup for the November poll. It is thought that one of the reasons the reshuffle was announced so late last night (the details had not been confirmed by 11 p.m., Kathimerini English Edition’s closing time) was so that the television evening news programs would focus on the candidates that PASOK had picked for the local polls, rather then changes to the Cabinet. The reluctance of ministers to leave the Cabinet for local government had led many to believe that Papandreou would not conduct a broad reshuffle. However, the prime minister was set to spring another surprise by announcing substantial changes to his ministerial team. In a significant move, Economy Minister Louka Katseli was transferred from her post to take over at the Labor Ministry. It was not clear if the Economy Ministry would remain intact or would be split, with some responsibilities going to Finance Minister Giorgos Papaconstantinou and the old Development and Merchant Marine ministries being resurrected. Sources said that Michalis Chrysochoidis, the former citizens’ protection minister, would take over either the new Development Ministry or the remodeled Economy Ministry. Andreas Loverdos, who had been in charge of the Labor and Social Security Ministry, was due to take over a new department that would oversee health policy and social insurance issues. The size of the task that Greece faces in overcoming its debt problem and carrying out structural reforms also prompted Papandreou, according to sources, to create a new post within the government to coordinate policy and ensure ministers are sticking to the plan. Yiannis Ragousis, the interior minister until yesterday and a close aide of the prime minister’s, was expected to be appointed to this position.