Greece yesterday unveiled a caretaker Cabinet of technocrats tasked with organizing the cash-strapped nation’s second elections just six weeks after an inconclusive vote sent jitters across the eurozone.
The temporary team led by 67-year-old Greek Prime Minister Panagiotis Pikrammenos, head of the nation’s top administrative court, is made up of mainly prominent university professors, a retired general and a respected diplomat.
Greece’s political limbo has sent the euro and European stock -markets plunging, with little guarantee that the new vote set for June 17 will produce a viable government that will implement a massive EU-IMF rescue package.
Officials from the EU and the IMF, which are all that stands between Greece and a disorderly debt default — and a possible exit from the eurozone — have warned that no new funds will be released if progress on pledged reforms falters.
Greece’s new Cabinet was sworn in yesterday, with George Zannias, formerly head of the state’s council of economic advisors and a key negotiator in Greece’s landmark debt rollover, appointed finance minister.
Petros Molyviatis, an 83-year-old retired diplomat, returns to head the Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs after a stint from 2004 to 2006, while the former head of the Greek army general staff Frangos Frangoulis has been named minister of national defense.
The caretaker administration was appointed after Greece’s political parties failed to cobble together a coalition following the May 6 elections, which saw a voter backlash against austerity and in which no clear victor emerged.
“The new battle begins,” conservative New Democracy leader Antonis Samaras told party cadres. “It will determine whether Greece will remain in Europe, a Europe that is itself changing.”
Many Greeks are in despair after two years of salary and pension sacrifices which have failed to bring the promised economic benefits, triggering strikes and sometimes violent protests.
Radical left-wing party Syriza, which is vehemently opposed to what it brands “barbaric” austerity measures and has threatened to tear up the bailout deal, is favorite to win after coming second in the May 6 election.
Syriza’s 37-year-old leader Alexis Tsipras on Wednesday accused the EU and German Chancellor Angela Merkel of “playing poker with European people’s lives.”
Tsipras told the BBC that if the “disease of austerity destroys Greece, it will spread to the rest of Europe.”
The turmoil has raised fears among Greece’s international creditors that structural reforms pledged in return for the latest 240 billion euro (US$300 billion) bailout will be delayed or even scuppered.
“It is clear to all that our homeland is going through difficult times. We must safeguard its prestige and assure a smooth transition,” Pikrammenos said on Wednesday.