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Greek PM reshuffles government after poor showing in EU polls

Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras oversaw a major cabinet reshuffle on Monday in response to his government's poor showing in EU elections last month.

ATHENS: Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras oversaw a major cabinet reshuffle on Monday in response to his government's poor showing in EU elections last month.

The shake-up, aimed at reinvigorating Samaras's struggling conservative-Socialist coalition, comes just weeks after its defeat in EU elections to the country's main opposition, the radical left-wing Syriza party.

Syriza beat Samaras's ruling centre-right New Democracy into second place in the May poll, gaining more than 26 per cent of the vote.

The reshuffle saw the replacement of more than a dozen ministers, including health, education, development and interior, government spokeswoman Sophia Voultepsi announced on Monday.

Most significantly, Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras was replaced by 59-year-old economist and university professor Guikas Hardouvelis.

Hardouvelis, a chief economist of Eurobank and previously a top economic advisor to former Prime Minister Lucas Papademos at height of the Greek financial crisis, is seen as holding similar pro-European, centre-left leanings as his predecessor.

Syriza made significant gains in EU elections on a campaign opposing the harsh austerity measures passed by the Greek government in return for a massive 240 billion euro ($330 billion) bailout funded jointly by the European Union and the IMF.

Syriza's 39-year-old leader Alexis Tsipras called the vote a "referendum" on austerity.

Following Syriza's victory, speculation has been rife that Stournaras, who played a key role in the EU and IMF bailout negotiations, may be replaced.

But it is unlikely that Hardouvelis will depart from the course set out by his predecessor, and is expected to continue to implement the conditions set out by the terms of joint EU and IMF bailout.

It is thought that Stournaras will leave to head the Bank of Greece, where current governor George Provopoulos's term expires on June 21.

Elsewhere in the cabinet, positions held by Samaras's coalition partners, the socialist Pasok party, remained intact.

The party's president, Evangelos Venizelos, remains deputy prime minister and minister of foreign affairs.

Similarly, socialist Yannis Maniatis remains as environment minister and Michalis Chryssohoides retains the post of transport minister.

Monday's reshuffle is the second since Samaras was elected in June 2012. Just a year after he came to power in June 2013, the Prime Minister was forced to shake-up his cabinet following a political crisis caused by the closure of the public broadcaster ERT.

While financial assistance from Brussels is expected to end this year, Athens hopes to resume negotiations with its European partners to reduce its huge public debt, which has reached about 175 per cent of gross domestic product.

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