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Reshuffle looms as Greek PM, sagging in polls, seeks debt relief
[ATHENS] Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras is considering a cabinet reshuffle to reverse a slump in popularity by sidelining ministers he sees as obstacles to winning debt relief from international lenders, government sources say.
Mr Tsipras wants reforms to achieve debt restructuring and to get Greece into the European Central Bank's quantitative easing programme. Doing so may appease austerity-jaded Greeks by persuading them that years of financial sacrifice are paying off.
Energy Minister Panos Skourletis, who opposes some key privatisations demanded by lenders, including selling a stake in Greece's PPC power company, was among the ministers who could be replaced, one source said. Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos was expected to keep his post, the officials said.
Asked to comment on a possible reshuffle, government spokeswoman Olga Gerovassili told Skai TV only that the government's aim was the "flexible, fast, effective" management of the country.
A reshuffle would be testament to Mr Tsipras's delicate balancing act between implementing painful bailout reforms and boosting his leftist Syriza party's popularity ratings which have been sagging for months. Syriza is trailing the conservatives.
He was first elected 21 months ago promising to end years of austerity for Greece, imposed by international creditors. But he was forced to reverse course by the prospect of the country being kicked out of the euro zone and pursue deeper reforms under a third international bailout. He was re-elected in September last year. "If he (Tsipras) needs a cabinet which can conclude the review as swiftly as possible then a reshuffle would indeed ease the points of contention," said one of the sources, adding that it could happen as early as this month.
A second official said Mr Tsipras has been mulling the move for some time but has not made any final decision, while a third official said a reshuffle was not expected to be broad but would affect the structure of ministries.
Another bailout review, which includes unpopular labour reforms, fiscal issues and privatisations, started in Athens on Friday. Mr Tsipras had scheduled meetings with his European counterparts in Brussels to discuss the review.
Under its third aid programme of up to 86 billion euros agreed in 2015, Greece pledged to press ahead with state asset sales to raise 14 billion euros by 2022 to cut public debt.
Athens is already off schedule in privatising PPC. The state, which now owns 51 percent of PPC with a market value of 684 million euros, was expected to hire advisers in September to sell 17 percent of it. This has been pushed back for November, a privatisation agency source said.