The Greek cabinet shuffle, earlier this week, caused a multitude of publications from the majority of the international press. The departure of the Democratic Left from the coalition due to disagreement regarding the issue of ERT was the fuse of the developments.
This was the commonplace in the majority of the foreign reports. As noted by the Washington Post, the disagreement with the Democratic Left left the government with a slender majority in parliament. This led Samaras to a hasty shuffle of the cabinet. Faced with new political balances, the Prime Minister stressed the “need for stability and speed of the reforms”. The American newspaper mentions the intention of the Greek government to remove about 15,000 employees of the public sector until the end of the year, as the next step of a consolidation effort that has shifted its axis: the political movements for the economic survival of the country have not been on par with the tax increases and wage cuts, turning into more complex, long-term reformations aiming on the functionality of the state and the economy.
On the same subject, an article of the Wall Street Journal focuses on the upcoming tests of the –now- bipartisan coalition, which will soon be asked to take new measures for the economy. Pasok seems politically strengthened by the cabinet shuffle, as mr. Venizelos was placed in both Vice President and Minister of Foreign Affairs positions, while other members of Pasok undertook critical positions in several ministries. Even though both leaders agree on the axes of a tough policy in the context of the austerity program, the Socialist party appears strongly reluctant to further measures that may be needed due to privatizations or failure of fulfillment of the obectives of the memorandum. Finally, the liberal newspaper points out that the unilateral move of Samaras to close ERT put his relationship with mr. Venizelos on trial. Nevertheless, mr. Venizelos chose to stay in coalition, in order to prevent electoral uncertainty.
Nevertheless, since three is a crowd and two is company, the new government now is comprised of the two parties that ruled Greece incessantly for the past 39 years, with more than obvious results.
“Le Nouvel Observateur” refers to a forced arrangement of Greek Prime Minister to “implement the solution proposed by Pasok” regarding the ERT closure, in a related article titled ‘Cohabitation of the right wing and the socialists in the face of crisis’. The French newspaper characterizes the coexistence of the two partners as an “one-way solution for Samaras, due to fluid circumstances”. The greatly upgraded responsibilies of Ev. Venizelos fall in the same context. Meanwhile, the opposition voices of Syriza mention “a staff turnover, which is aimed in meeting lender requirements and continuing the austerity measures”. The professor T. Diamantopoulos, as expressed in his statement to the newspaper, believes that “the dynamics of the coalition will depend on the results on the real economy, which have the potential to mitigate the wrath of the Left. The coalition has lost its ideological range –extending from the moderate left to the conservative right- but will benefit in cohesion and determination”.
In conclusion, the article highlights some of A. Samaras’ choices for the new cabinet, citing K. Mitsotakis (a reformist, he assumes the ‘hot potato’ of the administrative reformation) and Adonis Georgiadis (with origins in the far right, a staunch supporter of the closure of ERT) as examples.
Although Greece ranks last in EU waste management, the conservative Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ) could not but notice that the ministers of the recent government reshuffle are “recycled”, perhaps because Germany has always been keen on assisting Greece in modernizing its old and anti-ecological waste disposal system. On the contrary, for the opposition leader Alexis Tsipras the 25th of June marked the “beginning of the end” of the current Greek leadership, “whose only remaining task is to continue the political plunder and the fire-sale of public goods”. In a statement awash with messianic overtones, the left wing alliance of Syriza highlighted that “the collapse is unavoidable”, an rather unpleasant event that coincides with polls bringing Syriza on par with the ruling party of New Democracy. Its leader, Antonis Samaras was disappointed in witnessing the departure of 14 representatives of the Democratic Left from the coalition government, a success story for the small centre-left wing party with small chances of happening again in the near future. Nevertheless, since three is a crowd and two is company, the new government now is comprised of the two parties that ruled Greece incessantly for the past 39 years, with more than obvious results. FAz commented rightfully that such a coalition would have been unthinkable for New Democracy and Pasok, the arch rivals of the Greek political scene, but as former PM George Papandreou joyously used to reaffirm “Democracy knows no dead ends”.
It was exactly two years ago when the same Papandreou attempted a government reshuffle as a solution of the last resort, in order to meet the growing public discontent. He appointed his party rival Evangelos Venizelos as Finance Minister and Deputy Prime Minister. Samaras in turn, appointed Venizelos as the new Foreign Minister and Deputy PM in his newly formed cabinet. In a way it must be remniscent to the Germans of the ominous move of Hans-Dietrich Genscher, then Foreign Minister of Germany, who in 1982 switched sides from the coalition with the SPD to support the CDU/CSU, so as to have Helmut Schmidt replaced with Helmut Kohl as Chancellor.
Nevertheless, Papandreou's government couldn't last longer than five months and PASOK that had received nearly 44% of the vote in the parliamentary election in 2009, has now to cope persistently with catastrophic single digit ratings. The common denominator of both reshuffles was the presence of Venizelos and one knows that the worst is yet to come when pragmatic German journalists speak of “bad omens”.