Samaras sworn in as Greek prime minister

Conservative Antonis Samaras has been sworn in as Greece’s new prime minister, leading a newly formed coalition government that intends to renegotiate the terms of an international bailout package.

Three political parties — Mr. Samaras’s New Democracy, the Democratic Left, and the socialist PASOK — arrived at an agreement on a coalition government earlier Wednesday after two-and-a-half days of negotiations. Mr. Samaras then met with Greek President Carolos Papoulias before the swearing-in ceremony.

PASOK party leader Evangelos Venizelos told reporters more details about the new government will be released later in the day.

The New Democracy party won 129 of 300 seats in Sunday’s parliamentary elections, but having fallen short of an absolute majority, the party was forced to negotiate a coalition government with PASOK and the Democratic Left. The three parties support international bailouts for Greece’s troubled economy, but seek to renegotiate the terms of a bailout deal offered by the European Union and International Monetary Fund.

The Syriza party, which took second place in the elections, opposes bailouts and has refused to join a coalition. Its leader says Greece needs to have a strong opposition and that history will prove that the bailouts and accompanying sharp spending cuts were wrong for Greece.

The monetary crisis in Greece exploded in 2009 and set off a chain reaction across Europe. Greece is now in its fifth year of recession, with unemployment more than 22 percent. Greeks have filled the streets in often violent protests against the austerity drive, which includes spending cuts, tax hikes, and firing thousands of civil servants.

1. SOUNDBITE (Greek) Fotis Kouvelis, leader of Greece’s Democratic Left party:

“The Central Committee of the Democratic Left Party decided with a vast majority last night to give a vote of confidence to the government that will be formed. That vote, as well as the support of the government, depends on the content of the policy platform this government will have.”

2. SOUNDBITE (Greek) Evangelos Venizelos, leader of Greece’s PASOK party:

“New Democracy, PASOK and Democratic Left Party accept, equally of course, the burden of national co-responsibility, for the bailout revision and the final excess of the crisis. Unfortunately, others refused to participate in this national case. As you already know, representatives of all three parties continue the paperwork that depicts the policy platform of the new government. This is going to be specified later on with the policy statements. So, Greece has a government and this message will be sent tomorrow to the Eurogroup from professor Zannias, who will be there as the outgoing Minister of Finance.”


(Photo: Council of the European Union)