Greek Cabinet shuffle may be paving way for early elections
Greece's Socialist prime minister, Andreas Papandreou, may be preparing to call elections for June, well before his mandate runs out in October 1985. Mr. Papandreou is seen by many observers as wanting to take advantage of his current popularity and of the disarray in the conservative New Democracy Party to score a big electoral victory.
June is the month for election of Greek representives to the European Community. By combining that with national parliamentary elections, the Socialist leader would avoid having two separate votes on his popularity.
Strong signs of a possible June election came from a Cabinet shuffle this week. Papandreou's failure to fire a single minister, some observers claim, indicates either that he is too weak within his own party or, more likely, that he wants to preserve party unity with an eye to early elections.
The shuffle, which reflects a moderate course for the Socialist government, makes it less likely that Papandreou will enter into an alliance with the pro-Moscow Communist Party - although some conservatives say he already has informally.
It remains to be seen how the Communists, who possess significant power in the trade unions, will react if the government does indeed adopt a more moderate course.
If elections were held today, New Democracy would be hard-pressed to get 30 percent of the vote. The possibility of an early election increases pressure on the party to resolve its leadership struggles quickly.
Papandreou's Cabinet changes are the second since the Socialists won power in October 1981 but the first of major proportions. Three new ministers were brought in, and 12 were shifted to other posts. The new government will include 27 ministers and 22 undersecretaries as opposed to 22 and 26 in the outgoing Cabinet. In a move meant to revamp the economy, he appointed his former minister of coordination, Apostolos Lazaris, as minister to the premier, the highest-ranking Cabinet post.
''With Lazaris the business community is relieved because they believe the government will be more reasonable, better organized, and perhaps more centrist, '' says Basil Coronakis, publisher of a weekly business magazine.
Papandreou also moved Agamemnon Koutsogiorgas from minister to the premier to minister of the interior. ''He is popular with party militants,'' remarked a source close to the opposition. ''He was sent to interior to organize the European parliamentary elections in June, and this may mean that they intend to seek early national elections as well.''