Downtrodden Tsipras Looks at Ministers Shuffle Again

FILE - Prime minister Alexis Tsipras addressing his Cabinet ministers. (Photo by PM's Press Office/Andrea Bonetti via Eurokinissi)

ATHENS – Besieged by bad news, Prime Minister and Radical Left SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras is reportedly hoping to regain favor by shaking up his Cabinet again and then on Sept. 8 at the Thessaloniki International Fair (TIF) propose handouts to help people hurt when he continued austerity measures he said he would stop.

The embattled party, rocked in surveys showing it has plummeted in popularity after Tsipras constantly reneging on pledges to help workers, pensioners and the poor and defy the country’s creditors before surrendering to them, will have a meeting of its political council on Aug. 27 to plan strategy to get out of the mess somehow.

Even the Aug. 20 end of three rescue packages of 326 billion euros ($378.44 billion) did nothing to cheer Greeks, coming a month after July 23 wildfires killed 96 people and left the government scrambling to defend a chaotic response and a bevy of lawsuits brought against ministers and officials.

Tsipras was said to have offered the role of General Secretary to Interior Minister Panos Skourletis, a loyalist who took over as well the position of Citizen’s Protection Minister when Nikos Toskas was dumped after the debacle of a response to the fires.

But Skourletis reportedly was reluctant to take it on, said Kathimerini, with the party caught up on series of fronts trying to defend itself and with renewed talk of early elections and as Tsipras wants to find some way to wiggle out of planned pension cuts set to begin Jan. 1, 2019 and mollify the effect of other brutal measures he put on Greeks.

It would be difficult as while Greece has a 9.5-billion euro ($11.03 billion) cash buffer left over from a third bailout, this one for 86 billion euros ($99.84 billion) Tsipras sought in the summer of 2015 after saying he wouldn’t, that would be good enough for only about 22 months before Greece would need to return to the markets.

The creditors, the Troika of the European Union-European Central Bank-European Stability Mechanism (EU-ECB-ESM) and the Washington, D.C.-based International Monetary Fund (IMF) warned him not to renege on reforms without risking a debt relief Greece got allowing up until 2060 for the loans to be repaid, and investors are keeping a wary eye out.

With his junior coalition partner, the pro-austerity, marginal, jingoistic Independent Greeks (ANEL) of Panos Kammenos proving to be a headache and opposing a deal to rename the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) – threatening to leave the coalition if it comes to a vote in Parliament – Tsipras is looking for allies in rival parties, the paper said.

That includes the likelihood of snubbing SYRIZA loyalists in a Cabinet shakeup and instead appointing former ministers from the now-defunct PASOK Socialists he had named as one of the chief culprits of corruption, runaway spending and patronage that pushed the need for Greece to seek bailouts.

They includes Yiannis Ragousis, Mariliza Xenogiannakopoulou and Louka Katseli as well as Independent Members of Parliament, Katerina Papacosta and Haris Theoharis, although they’d all have to explain why they would align themselves with SYRIZA.

Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos, Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias and will stay put, it was said, despite criticism of Kotzias for his handling of a diplomat row with Russia, expelling two Russian diplomats said to have interfered in the FYROM name talks.

Tsipras also has to weight trying to stop the pension cuts and giving handouts in a bid to seek votes against the warnings of the creditors and investors who could put the brakes on any recovery hopes.

Greece’s popular island of Hydra was without power and water and the Civil Defence General Secretariat declared a State of Emergency.