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New Samaras Shuffle, Stournaras to Bank of Greece

Prime Minister Antonis Samaras (L) with Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras
Prime Minister Antonis Samaras (L) with Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras

With one eye on a hopeful economic recovery and the other on next month’s critical elections for Greek municipalities and the European Parliament, Prime Minister Antonis Samaras is reportedly planning yet another Cabinet shakeup that will see Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras taking over the coveted job as chief of the Bank of Greece.

Stournaras, who negotiated with the country’s international lenders, would replace George Provopoulos, who had wrongly predicted a Greek comeback for the past few years, and whose term expires in mid-June. Provopoulos had recently said he wanted to keep the position.

Samaras will reportedly wait until after next month’s elections where his New Democracy Conservatives face a tough challenge from the major opposition Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) that is opposed to the terms of the two bailouts of 240 billion euros ($330.7 billion) from the Troika of the European Union-International Monetary Fund-European Central Bank (EU-IMF-ECB).

The newspaper Kathimerini, without citing its sources, said Samaras will keep two key Cabinet members, Administrative Reform Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, who oversaw public worker firings, and Development Minister Costis Hatzidakis, who has been supervising the lifting of restrictions in a number of professions, although those continue to lag.

Also said to be safe in the coalition government that includes the PASOK Socialists are Public Order Minister Nikos Dendias and Health Minister Adonis Georgiadis, who has been a public face for austerity as he made drastic cuts to the health care system.

Georgiadis, who has no experience in the health field, has been a lightning rod for criticism though and frequently jeered and hooted during appearances at hospitals and in public forums.

Dendias had been named by a former Samaras aide in a secret videotape with Golden Dawn’s spokesman as allegedly behind trumped-up charges to bring down the extremists but vehemently denied it. It was said that Dendias and Georgiadis may even receive a promotion, although it was not stipulated what that was.

Education Minister Constantinos Arvanitopoulos is likely to be let go while former PASOK minister Andreas Loverdos, who quit the party to form his own that has almost no presence in polls, could come back and tak a ministerial position along with another former Socialist minister, Filippos Sachinidis.

It was not said whether that had the blessing of PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos, who serves as Samaras’ Deputy Premier/Foreign Minister, positions he took after backing more tough austerity conditions that have created record unemployment and deep poverty.

Stournaras’ last job for the government as finance chief is expected to be a meeting of Eurozone finance ministers on May 5, where he will make a case for Greece to have debt relief after it achieved a primary surplus under his watch.

That will likely be a key part of Samaras’ pitch to voters along with citing stability he said he has brought after almost four years of protests, strikes and riots against pay cuts, tax hikes, slashed pensions and worker firings.

Stournaras will be reportedly be replaced by a key Samara adviser, Stavros Papastavrou, after the elections on May 25 and Samaras is said to be mulling other moves to change the face of his government in hopes of lasting out his term until 2016.

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