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Samaras Says No Shake-Up, No Venizelos

PASOK Socialist leader Evangelos Venizelos
PASOK Socialist leader Evangelos Venizelos

PASOK Socialist leader Evangelos Venizelos’ new hopes of having his party members – including him – join the coalition government headed by Prime Minister and New Democracy Conservative leader Antonis Samaras were dashed when a government spokesman denied reports of an imminent Cabinet reshuffle.
The newspaper Kathimerini reported that Venizelos was eying the position of Deputy Prime Minister or wanted to be Foreign Minister and oust New Democracy stalwart Dimitris Avramopoulos.
Venizelos has already picked lawmakers within his party to take posts if the Cabinet changes, including Yiannis Maniatis, Evi Christofilopoulou and Paris Koukoulopoulos, who have previous cabinet experience, as well as several deputies who have not served in government before.
Greek government spokesman Simos Kedikoglou said there was no truth to reports that Samaras was planning to change the ministers in his government. “There is no issue at all of a reshuffle, period,” Kedikoglou said in an e-mailed statement sent to reporters.
There were growing reports that Samaras wanted to replace ministers he felt were not moving fast enough on reforms demanded by international lenders that he supports.
That led Venizelos, whose party has fallen from 44 percent of voter support in 2009 to barely 7 percent now, to tell Mega TV that he’d be eager to get PASOK into the government, although when it was formed last year he gave Samaras his party’s votes but barred his members from taking Cabinet seats.
That was reportedly done because Venizelos feared growing social unrest for the government’s unrelenting support for pay cuts, tax hikes and slashed pensions that are antithetical to PASOK’s principles. The tiny Democratic Left (DIMAR) is the third party in the coalition but its leader, Fotis Kouvelis, rejected overtures from Venizelos to have their parties merge.
“Of course political figures should participate in the government if we agree on policies,” Venizelos said. He has given his unconditional support to Samaras and austerity. But Kathimerini said that Samaras’ advisors are split on a reshuffle as some want him to get rid of ministers who aren’t pushing reforms fast enough.
When Samaras won the Prime Minister’s office in June last year, without enough of the vote to form a government, Venizelos and Kouvelis gave him their party votes but barred their members from holding ministerial jobs, fearing a public backlash against pay cuts, tax hikes and slashed pensions might bring down the government and wanted to insulate themselves from blame, Greek media reported then.

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