Greece election: PM Antonis Samaras announces cabinet

Greece's Prime Minister Antonis Samaras (C), Leader of the Democratic Left party Fotis Kouvelis (2nd L), Foreign Minister Vassilis Rapanos (L) and leader of Pasok Evangelos Venizelos (R) meet at the prime minister's office on June 21, 2012 The key players in Greece's new government met in the prime minister's office on Thursday

Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras has announced his new cabinet, which is dominated by MPs from his conservative New Democracy party.

Vassilis Rapanos, the chairman of the National Bank of Greece, has been given the key post of finance minister.

The socialist Pasok and Democratic Left parties have two party officials in the cabinet, but have barred their MPs from taking part.

It is believed they may not want to be associated with austerity measures.

The BBC's Mark Lowen in Athens says the decision of New Democracy's coalition partners not to participate fully in the cabinet does not bode well for the effectiveness of the new government.

Analysis

One of the sticking points in forming the government has been the composition of the cabinet. Some former Pasok ministers wanted key posts but the party leader decided that none of his MPs should take cabinet positions.

The third coalition member, Democratic Left, also kept its MPs out. Why? Clearly to avoid association with unpopular austerity measures to come. It does not bode well for the future strength and solidarity of the coalition. But government sources say all three parties have signed an agreement to support the coalition fully, even without representation in cabinet.

The first test comes today at a eurozone finance ministers' meeting in Luxembourg, when Greece will request that some bailout terms be renegotiated. That may receive a cool response from EU members wary of letting Greece deviate from cost-cutting. But if Athens fails to win significant concessions in the weeks ahead, it would be a major blow for the government, prematurely ending any honeymoon period.

Can the new government survive?

Old faces

New finance minister Mr Rapanos, 65, is a former economics professor who served in the economy ministry when Greece joined the euro in 2001.

Some reports suggest he is seen as being close to Pasok.

New Democracy's deputy leader Dimitris Avramopoulos has taken the post of foreign minister in a smaller cabinet of 18 ministers.

The party won 129 seats in Greece's 300-seat parliament on Sunday, including a 50-seat bonus for coming first in the election.

Along with Pasok and Democratic Left, the new government will have a majority of 29.

Mr Samaras became Greece's fourth prime minister in eight months at a brief ceremony at the presidential palace in Athens on Wednesday.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has reportedly congratulated Mr Samaras in a letter, saying she looks forward to co-operating with him.

"You're taking over the country at a difficult time," she wrote, as quoted by Greece's Skai TV. "We all have expectations of your government."

People in Athens who spoke to Reuters news agency were doubtful the new government could improve the Greek situation.

Key cabinet ministers

  • Finance: Vassilis Rapanos
  • Administrative Reform and e-Governance: Antonios Manitakis
  • Interior: Evripidis Stylianidis
  • Foreign Affairs: Dimitris Avramopoulos
  • Defence: Panos Panagiotopoulos

"I don't have anything against [Samaras] but I believe that all the old politicians, like Venizelos and Samaras, should leave and something different should happen so we can have someone new," said Danae, a 46-year-old kindergarten teacher.

"Otherwise, I don't think anything will happen."

Bailout 'off track'

Greece will be represented at a eurozone finance ministers meeting in Luxembourg by the outgoing Greek Finance Minister George Zanias.

Mr Rapanos is not expected to be sworn in until Saturday.

A top bailout official has warned eurozone states that they must tell Greece to make fresh budget cuts or raise more taxes, or face having to pay themselves.

The country got an initial EU-IMF package worth 110bn euros (£89bn; $138bn) in 2010, then a follow-up this year worth 130bn euros.

It has also had 107bn euros of debt, held by private investors, written off.

Greece's second bailout is "totally off track, months behind schedule", Thomas Wieser, head of the key Euro Working Group, told AFP.

Either you "stick to the fiscal targets and then you need additional measures" from Greece, he said, or you change deadlines, in which case "you need extra money".

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