Greek conservative head Antonis Samaras sworn in as PM

 

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The Independent Online

Greek conservative party head Antonis Samaras was sworn in as prime minister today at the helm of a three-party coalition that will uphold Greece's international bailout commitments.

The move ends a protracted political crisis that had cast grave doubt over the country's future in Europe's joint currency and threatened to plunge Europe deeper into a financial crisis with global repercussions.

Samaras, an American-educated 61-year-old economist, was sworn in three days after his party won the second national elections in six weeks but without enough votes to form a government on its own.

His New Democracy party will join forces with the socialist PASOK party, which came in third place, and the smaller Democratic Left led by Fotis Kouvelis. Discussions on the lineup of ministers were expected to be completed by tonight.

"I will ask the new government that will be formed tomorrow to work hard so that we can offer tangible hope to our people," Samaras told reporters as he left the presidential mansion.

Greek stocks rose marginally in response to the news, with Athens shares closing up 0.5 per cent, limiting earlier gains.

The new prime minister was to meet with outgoing Finance Minister Giorgos Zanias, PASOK head Evangelos Venizelos and Kouvelis this evening.

All three parties broadly back Greece's pledges to bailout creditors for further austerity and reforms, although they have pledged to renegotiate some of the terms for the rescue loans.

New Democracy and PASOK are also looking for an extension of at least two years in the deadlines for implementing fresh cutbacks worth a total of 14.5 billion euro.

Democratic Left leader Fotis Kouvelis went a bit further today, saying that Greece should eventually "disengage" from the austerity commitments and "lift those measures that have literally bled society."

Greece has been dependent on the loans from other Eurozone countries and the International Monetary Fund since May 2010. In return, it has imposed deep spending cuts, slashed salaries and pensions, and repeatedly hiked taxes.

The measures have left the country struggling through a fifth year of recession, with unemployment spiralling to above 22 per cent and tens of thousands of businesses shutting down.

AP 

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