Jarring note

The growing dissent of Public Works Minister Giorgos Souflias and the failings of another two or three ministers – mostly the product of poor political judgment – are putting pressure on the prime minister to push forward plans for a government shake-up. A reshuffle is expected to take place after the holidays. The claim is not based on inside sources but on the evident lack of harmony within the ruling party. The disarray may be caused by a very small group of people but it still taints the image of the entire government. Costas Karamanlis seems to be left with no other option as the «dissidents» show no sign of changing their behavior in the near future. Souflias, in particular, who is in charge of one of the most pivotal ministries – especially as regards New Democracy’s campaign to thwart corruption – has constantly been a jarring note in the administration. The Thessaly-born politician tends to see himself as a sidelined political icon. He first showed signs of this syndrome when in 1998 he was beaten by Karamanlis in the race for party leadership. After his defeat, Souflias was constantly challenging the party line, which resulted in his being ejected from the conservative party. Following a brief flirtation with Costas Simitis’s PASOK, Souflias made a triumphant return to ND, taking over a crucial post. Nevertheless, he has never really managed to overcome that second-at-the-post feeling. More recently, he was among the possible presidential candidates but Karamanlis’s decision to propose another candidate has fueled his rebelliousness. Souflias cannot hope that Karamanlis will continue to tolerate his renegade status – more so when he has in the past been ejected for the same reason.