Conservative leader Antonis Samaras takes the helm of the new Greek government, but faces political -- and popular -- opposition.
By Andy Dabilis for Southeast European Times in Athens -- 21/06/12
Newly appointed Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras prepares for his swearing in ceremony at the Presidential Palace in Athens on Wednesday (June 20th). [Reuters]
Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, sworn into office on Wednesday, (June 20th), emphasised the need for patriotism, national unity and trust in God so that Greece will emerge from its financial crisis as quickly as possible.
"I am fully aware of the critical moments we face as a country," he said, adding that Greeks were "injured" and needed "healing."
Although the new government should bring some political stability and puts on hold a long crisis that threatened to jeopardise the eurozone, not many have faith that it will last.
The new government is led by New Democracy Conservative leader Samaras, a 61-year-old American-educated economist, whose party finished first in the polls -- but with less than 30% of the vote and not enough seats in parliament to form a government.
Supporting him, but without taking part in the new cabinet, are the PASOK Socialists and the Democratic Left.
PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos demanded conditions for his party's support, including that Greece gradually disengage itself from the austerity measures required by the EU-IMF-ECB Troika in return for a second bailout of 130 billion euros.
The coalition parties support the conditions, but Samaras said he wants to redo some of the terms. The Troika has said that any attempt to tinker with reforms or failure to make another 11 billion euros in cuts could lead to the money pipeline being shut off.
Samaras faces an immediate dilemma: even with 179 seats in parliament, the three parties in the coalition got only 48% of the vote. Second-place finisher, the Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA), led by anti-austerity champion Alexis Tsipras, vowed to fight if he tries to impose more austerity measures.
"As soon as Samaras imposes further taxes and salary and pension reductions, deepening the depression and leading more people to despair and suicide … the situation will be out of control," Dimitri Hatzinikolaou, a professor of economics at the University of Ioannina in northern Greece told SETimes.
"The Samaras government will probably have a window of three months to put together something that may be viewed as viable by Greek voters and get an extension" to implement more reforms, Marios Evriveavis, professor of International Relations at Panteion University in Athens told SETimes.
John Nomikos, who heads the Athens-based Research Institute for European and American Studies, said Samaras has walked into a mine field, "but doesn't know where the mines are."
Unless the pressure is eased on Greece, and Samaras is successful in negotiating with the Troika, "the government won't last more than six months," he said.
The public seemed to agree.
Giorgos Andreadis, 25, who has been unemployed for more than a year, said he voted for SYRIZA but that nothing has changed. "All this fuss for nothing and we have the same ones governing us, the ones responsible for all this unemployment," he told SETimes.