Europe

Key Greece political figures

  • 20 June 2012
  • From the section Europe

A ruling coalition has finally been forged in Greece, following weeks of political turmoil sparked by an inconclusive election on 6 May.

New Democracy won, by a whisker, in a fresh poll on 17 June and three days later the coalition was announced, headed by its leader and now new Prime Minister Antonis Samaras.

The coalition faces the daunting challenge of steering a course through the competing demands upon it.

Key figures within it have pledged to partially renegotiate the tough terms of bailout deals agreed with the European Union and International Monetary Fund.

They are under pressure from a Greek population weary of years of cutbacks and recession.

But there is little appetite to revisit the bailout terms in Europe.

These are the key figures wrangling over the country's future:

Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, New Democracy

Image caption Mr Samaras leads the new coalition in Greece as the country's prime minister

The 60-year-old Antonis Samaras has been leading New Democracy since 2009.

An economist by training, he has been in politics for 35 years.

During that time he famously fell out with his own party for more than a decade over his hawkish stance on the Macedonia question .

While his international credentials are impressive - he was educated at Amherst and Harvard in the US - he is regarded by some as an opportunist.

Greece's eurozone partners for instance, were perplexed by his stubborn opposition to the first bailout for Greece in 2010.

Evangelos Venizelos, Pasok

Image caption Mr Venizelos is a veteran Greek politician

The 55-year-old Evangelos Venizelos took over as leader of the Socialist party, Pasok, in March after more than 20 years in politics.

A lawyer by training, he was in charge of preparing Athens for the 2004 Olympics, a project which mushroomed in cost, much of it state money.

As minister of finance during the bailouts, he was closely identified with the austerity measures that so many voters rejected.

Pasok finished a humiliating third in May, a shadow of its former self, and its share of the vote slipped even further in June.

However, because of old rival New Democracy's strong showing, Mr Venizelos was in a position to bring his party into government again as part of the broadly pro-bailout coalition.

He called for a much broader coalition that would include anti-bailout parties as part of what analysts suggested was a tactic to make radical parties like Syriza look intransigent.

The new coalition indeed includes the anti-austerity Democratic Left.

Fotis Kouvelis, Democratic Left

Image caption Mr Kouvelis changed his stance on joining a coalition without Syriza

Fotis Kouvelis, 63, has led his party since 2011, after it was formed as the result of a split within Syriza, the radical leftist runner-up at the 17 June election.

In previous incarnations, he was a member of the Greek Communist Party and then a founding member of the Greek Left party

He served as justice minister for a short spell in 1989.

Mr Kouvelis has campaigned on an anti-austerity platform and after the 6 May election refused to join any coalition government that did not include Syriza.

But his party, which slightly improved its share of the vote between the two elections while losing actual seats, ended up joining New Democracy and Pasok in the coalition - though he reiterated his insistence that the terms of the bailout must be renegotiated.

Alexis Tsipras, Syriza

Image caption Mr Tsipras is the country's youngest political leader

Alexis Tsipras , 37, is Greece's youngest political leader.

Under his leadership, Syriza has surged to become the country's second-largest party, coming from 5% in 2007 to 17% in May, then 27% in June.

He made clear that Syriza would not join any new government that supports the austerity measures, and appears set to become one of the new coalition's toughest critics.

Karolos Papoulias, president

Image caption Mr Papoulias led efforts to form a unity government following the May and June elections

Veteran Pasok Foreign Minister Karolos Papoulias was elected president by parliament in 2004, and again for a final five-year term in 2010.

The presidency is usually a largely ceremonial post, as executive power resides with the prime minister.

But Mr Papoulias, 83, was cast into a crucial role as he led efforts to form a unity government - and he was clearly relieved as the task was achieved, warning the new prime minister of the "many and difficult" problems he faced.