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February 22, 2019

Embattled Greek PM revamps cabinet for post-bailout push

Embattled Greek PM revamps cabinet for post-bailout push
'Poor ratings for Greek premier Alexis Tsipras were exacerbated further by last month's wildfires near Athens that have left nearly 100 people dead' - By: GREEK PRIME MINISTER'S PRESS OFFICE/AFP Andrea Bonetti

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras on Tuesday reshuffled his cabinet ahead of a keynote economy speech next month, seeking to rebound from poor ratings in the final stretch before 2019 elections.

Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos remains at his post, as does Defence Minister Panos Kammenos, leader of the nationalist Independent Greeks, the junior party in Tsipras' government coalition.

The reshuffle also left unchanged the key ministries of labour, migration, tourism and foreign affairs ahead of a name deal currently being negotiated with neighbouring Macedonia.

To fill junior ministry posts, Tsipras brought in a number of younger cadres from his leftist Syriza party into the government. Thirteen out of more than 50 government members are women.

Among notable changes is the appointment of former government spokeswoman Olga Gerovassili as the country's first female police minister. Her deputy is also a woman, former conservative Katerina Papacosta, in another first for the country.

The previous police minister Nikos Toskas resigned in the aftermath of last month's wildfires near Athens that left nearly 100 people dead.

Tsipras also sacked his justice minister Tuesday amid a furore over the conditional release from prison of a young businessman convicted of fraud, claiming disability.

The justice ministry also came under fire recently over furlough granted to a far-left hitman serving a life sentence for multiple murders.

The reshuffle saw former political rivals brought into the government to broaden its political appeal.

In addition to conservative Papacosta, former socialist health minister and European deputy Mariliza Xenogiannakopoulou signed up as administrative reform minister.

Another former socialist European deputy, Myrsini Zorba, takes over the culture ministry.

The embattled 44-year-old premier is seeking to rebound from poor ratings exacerbated by the fire tragedy.

Tsipras' Syriza party trails the conservative New Democracy party by over 10 points.

Elections are still over a year away, but there is speculation Tsipras could call them in early 2019.

Last week, Tsipras hailed the end of his country's eight-year "Odyssey" of painful debt bailouts and said the country had "won back the right to determine its own fortunes and future".

He has now pledged to raise the minimum wage and is expected to announce a batch of low-income benefits at the annual Thessaloniki trade fair next month.

"We need to rally. We need unity but also renewal," Tsipras told his leftist Syriza party this week.

"Our country, the government and the party need new blood and more hunger for work," he said.

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