ATHENS – New Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’ Administration will consolidate Ministries and provide some positions to his Independent Greeks coalition partner, party leader Panos Kammenos, who will be Defense Minister.
Tsipras, the leader of the Radical Left SYRIZA party, will have a number of close allies in his top positions and economist and blogger Yanis Varoufakis, who was as critical of the country’s bailout terms with international lenders as way the Prime Minister, will reportedly be Finance Minister.
A number of Tsipras’s close allies are expected to take key roles in the new cabinet. One of his closest advisers, Nikos Pappas, is expected to become Minister of State, Kathimerini said, with responsibility for coordinating the government’s efforts. SYRIZA spokesman Panos Skourletis is expected to take over the Interior Ministry.
Yiannis Dragasakis, the only member of SYRIZA’s with experience in government, is expected to be named Deputy Prime Minister and will have responsibility for overseeing the government’s economic team and possibly negotiations with the Troika of the European Union-International Monetary Fund-European Central Bank (EU-IMF-ECB).
Tsipras had vowed to renegotiate the austerity terms that came with two bailouts from the Troika of 240 billion euros ($306 billion) or walk away from at least half the debt, unsettling the Eurozone.
That puts Varoufakis in a prominent position to duel with the Troika as well, aided by Euclid Tsakalotos as his deputy.
Another economist, Giorgos Stathakis, is expected to be put in charge of the Development Ministry, which will be enlarged to incorporate other departments that currently operate separately.
SYRIZA’s left wing, or Left Platform, will probably be represented in the government by Panayiotis Lafazanis, Dimitris Stratoulis and Nikos Hountis.
Rania Antonopoulou, the Director of the Gender Equality and the Economy program at the Levy Institute, is expected to be appointed to the Labor Ministry, possibly as a deputy to Stratoulis.
Kammenos, who gave his party’s 13 seats in Parliament to Tsipras, whose SYRIZA garnered 149, two short of a majority in the 300-member body, got the new leader to back away though from tough stances on religion and foreign policy.
Sources at Independent Greeks told Kathimerini that the deal means Kammenos will back SYRIZA’s anti-austerity polices while Tsipras will go easy in negotiations over the name feud with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) and won’t seek a separation of Church and State as he had vowed, nor remove religious icons from schools.
Tsipras already rattled Church leaders when he refused to have a religious ceremony for his swearing-in, breaking with tradition. New Democracy Conservative leader Antonis Samaras, whom he replaced as Premier, refused to meet him for the hand-off of power, sending an emissary.
BILLS GETTING READY
Moving swiftly on campaign pledges, Tsipras is planning to raise the minimum wage back to 751 euros and reintroduce regulations regarding collective wage bargaining although it’s uncertain how he will do it if the Troika withholds a pending 7.2-billion euro installment if he does not go along with reforms they have demanded.
SYRIZA also plans to give indebted taxpayers crushed by big pay cuts, tax hikes, slashed pensions and worker firings that Samaras imposed more time to pay what they owe and set a limit of 20-30 percent of their income in repayment plans.
The new government also wants to pass legislation that will end the mobility scheme and evaluation process in the civil service that saw thousands of workers fired, and plans to rehire some of them.
Other measures expected in the coming weeks are legislation that would allow some 300,000 households living under the poverty threshold to receive free electricity. Tsipras is also due to push for the reopening of public broadcaster ERT, which was shut down in June 2013 although it has since been replaced by a new entity, NERIT, which is on the air.
SYRIZA and Independent Greeks have further agreed to form an investigative committee in Parliament to look into the circumstances that led to Greece being forced to sign its first troika bailout in 2010, including how the country’s debt spiraled.
After agreeing a deal with Kammenos, Tsipras visited Archbishop Ieronymos. Tsipras explained to the head of the Church of Greece that he did not want a religious swearing-in ceremony.
Tsipras told President Karolos Papoulias before being sworn in that, “I think it would be good to get on with the process as we have an uphill task ahead,”
After officially becoming Prime Minister, Tsipras visited the former rifle range at Kaisariani, where he laid flowers at a monument to more than 200 Greeks executed by Nazi occupiers in World War Two.
Russian President Vladimir Putin was among the world leaders to send Tsipras, a former Communist Youth leader, a congratulatory telegram on winning and offering to strengthen cooperation between the two countries.
The telegram was passed on to Tsipras by Russian Ambassador Andrey Maslov during what was the leftist leader’s first meeting with a foreign envoy.
Meanwhile, during a telephone call with Cypriot President Nikos Anastasiades, Tsipras confirmed Athens’s continued cooperation with Nicosia ahead of his visit to the Mediterranean island.
European Commission head Jean-Claude Juncker also called Tsipras to congratulate him, adding that he hoped the two would meet before the next EU summit. Juncker had warned Greeks not to vote for Tsipras and has said previously the EU would look askance at a SYRIZA Administration.