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Rapanos Was Unhappy with Samaras' Cabinet Picks

National Bank of Greece President Vassilis Rapanos doesn’t want the thankless Finance Minister’s job after all

ATHENS – Designated Finance Minister Vassilis Rapanos, who cited ill health for his decision not to accept the post, resigned because he was also dissatisfied with new Prime Minister Antonis Samaras’ decision to stock his coalition Cabinet with political appointments instead of technocrats, media reports said.
Rapanos, the President of the National Bank of Greece, was hospitalized on June 22 for four days after suffering nausea, abdominal cramps and fainting before being released on June 25 when he sent a letter of resignation to the office of Samaras, who himself was hospitalized after surgery to repair a detached retina.
A still-recovering Samaras had set June 26 as the date to start the quick search for a replacement although Greece will be represented at a critical meeting of European Union leaders on June 28-29 by a group of political officials since Samaras will not be able to attend and the country additionally has no Finance Minister to begin work. PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos and Democratic Left leader Fotis Kouvelis, who are sharing in the coalition government but who did not want any appointments to the Cabinet from their parties, also will not attend the Brussels meeting.
The newspaper Kathimerini reported that Rapanos had expected technocrats like caretaker Development Minister Yiannis Stournaras and ex-Interior Minister Tasos Yiannitsis to hold ministerial positions and the banker’s own choices to be appointed as deputy ministers in his department. Rapanos was also thought to have been alarmed by the content of the coalition’s policy program which he reportedly felt would have made achieving the country’s fiscal targets more difficult and would have been challenged by Greece’s creditors. Among some of Samaras’ promises were to hold the line on firings, restore a reduced minimum wage and try to get two more years before meeting deficit reduction deadlines, all of which he had agreed to before winning the election and reversing himself.
Standing in as Finance Minister is Giorgos Zannias, who held the role in a six-week caretaker government before the elections. Samaras could keep him although Yiannitsis and the widely-respected Stournaras, whose appointment was reportedly nixed by Venizelos, were other options, although Yiannitsis is said not to be interested in what is perhaps the most thankless job in the government. Another name being mentioned as Finance Minister was New Democracy Vice-President Stavros Dimas, who has little experience in the field and would be the kind of political appointment to which Rapanos is said to have objected.
Samaras is heading an uneasy coalition which has a majority of the Parliament but which together received less than 50 percent of the popular vote on June 17 that Samaras narrowly won over the Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) which was an opponent of the austerity measures Samaras and PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos signed based on demands of international lenders who put up $325 billion in two bailouts.
Samaras said he had changed his mind and now opposes much of what he signed.  It would be up to his Finance Minister to assume the critical role of helping convince the Troika of the European Union-International Monetary Fund-European Central Bank (EU-IMF-ECB) to let his new government back off on more reforms. The Troika has insisted, however, that he stick to the deal of more pay cuts, tax hikes, slashed pensions, the firing of 150,000 state workers and making another $15 billion in cuts.
Rapanos reportedly stated that Samaras needed more technocrats to give his coalition credibility with lenders and Greek society as a whole which has been protesting, striking and rioting for two years over the austerity measures. Samaras included a group of holdovers from the failed New Democracy government of former Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis, who ruled from 2004-2009 before being soundly defeated by then PASOK leader George Papandreou, who was hounded out of office in 2011 for imposing austerity. The Karamanlis Administration was roundly criticized for having lied about the state of the Greek economy, setting in motion the need for a first bailout of $152 billion and a second pending rescue package of $173 billion more.

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