ATHENS (Reuters) - Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras reshuffled his cabinet on Monday, aiming to bolster his government days after the smallest party in the ruling coalition quit over the closure of state TV, leaving him with a tiny majority in parliament.
In a move to quell concerns he was riding roughshod over his coalition partners and appease the Socialist PASOK party, his only remaining ally, Samaras named its chief Evangelos Venizelos deputy prime minister and foreign minister.
Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras kept his job, government spokesman Simos Kedikoglou said in a televised address, remaining Greece’s key negotiator with international lenders who return for an inspection visit to Athens later this month.
Conservative lawmaker Kyriakos Mitsotakis, one of the most ardent supporters of reforms, was put in charge of the ministry of administrative reform, which has to meet a controversial target of 15,000 public sector firings by the end of next year.
Outgoing foreign minister Dimitris Avramopoulos moved to the Ministry of Defence.
The departure of the small Democratic Left from the government last week suffered a heavy blow to Samaras’s coalition, narrowing its parliamentary majority to three votes in the 300-seat parliament.
Four independents may also back the new, reduced coalition in parliamentary votes. The Democratic Left, which has 14 lawmakers, has also signalled it could support some reforms on a case-by-case basis to keep Greece in the euro.
In an updated coalition agreement to be released in the coming days, Samaras and Venizelos are expected to reiterate their pledge to meet Greece’s fiscal goals. But they will reject new austerity measures and push lenders for gradual tax cuts to help soften a severe recession in its sixth year.
Samaras said on Saturday the government crisis and failure to meet privatisation targets, would not derail Greece’s international bailout.
Reporting by George Georgiopoulos and Renee Maltezou; Writing by Karolina Tagaris; Editing by Harry Papachristou and Michael Roddy