Samaras sworn in as Greek prime minister

Samaras sworn in as Greek prime minister

Samaras sworn in as Greek prime minister

Assuming Herculean task, New Democracy leader Samaras has been sworn in as the PM of crisis-hit Greece

Conservative leader Antonis Samaras was sworn in yesterday as the prime minister of the new Greek coalition, as he took up the challenge of trying to revise the terms of the unpopular EU-IMF bailout deal.

“I wish you good luck because the problems you have ahead of you are many and difficult,” Greek President Carolos Papoulias said before swearing in Samaras at a ceremony in the presidential palace, following three days of coalition talks.

Samaras and his New Democracy party, the winners of the weekend election, are the senior partners in a coalition with the socialist PASOK party. The government will also have the parliamentary support of the small Democratic Left party.

“I have the majority to form a long-term government of stability and hope,” Agence France-Presse quoted Samaras, a U.S.-educated former foreign minister, as saying. PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos said the new government would begin the battle to get the bailout deal rewritten at an EU summit next week.

“In those two days in Brussels we will carry out a major battle for revision of the loan and negotiate a framework that will boost the recovery and the fight against unemployment,” Venizelos said.

Intense international pressure

New Democracy won a narrow victory on June 17 against the radical leftist anti-austerity Syriza party, which has refused to support the coalition and is bitterly opposed to the terms of the bailout. Democratic Left leader Fotis Kouvelis said he expected the cabinet to “release the country from the painful terms” of the multi-billion bailout.

National Bank of Greece chairman Vassilis Rapanos, a former professor of economics who served in the government when Greece joined the euro in 2001, is widely tipped to be the new finance minister, local media reported. After two months of political deadlock, the struggling eurozone member is under intense international pressure to get back on track with reforms promised for a bailout that has kept the economy on life support for the past two years.

The International Monetary Fund is already pressing to send a team of experts to Greece as soon as possible to examine “shortfalls” over the past two months. The government’s first priority will be to restore contact with international auditors and resume the flow of loans that was suspended ahead of the election.

Foreign creditors like Germany have stressed that they are only willing to give Greece more time to meet a deficit reduction target, currently set at 2014, but will not change the actual substance of the bailout deal agreed in February.

The 61-year-old Samaras is under pressure to go further, however, and promised in his campaign that he would cut property and sales taxes and freeze reductions in public salaries and pensions. He also vowed to crack down on undocumented migrants, a key concern among many Greeks that helped the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party win 18 seats.