PM forced into a corner
Health minister calls for more decisiveness as Papandreou’s leadership is questioned
Prime Minister George Papandreou will hold a cabinet meeting today, a few days after Greece’s future in the eurozone was questioned, and with doubts growing about his own future at the helm of the government.
Papandreou’s leadership came under increased pressure yesterday when Health Minister Andreas Loverdos held a news conference to call for the government to be more coordinated and decisive. Many commentators saw this as an attempt to question the effectiveness of the prime minister and several members of his team and a move to position himself as a potential successor to the prime minister.
Loverdos, whose opinion poll ratings are the highest of all the cabinet members, suggested that the government needed to improve its work and avoid more “confused and contradictory policies.” The health minister said he would resign otherwise. He also suggested that it was time for a cabinet reshuffle.
“There is no room for mixed messages and the warriors must return to the front line today,” said Loverdos, who also proposed that the whole Cabinet should sign any agreements the government strikes with the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund, collectively known as the troika.
In perhaps his most controversial proposal, Loverdos said that all significant draft laws should require a qualified rather than simple majority in favor to pass through Parliament. This suggestion was in direct contradiction to Papandreou’s position, which has been not to ask for 180 votes as this would require the support of New Democracy.
Loverdos’s bullish briefing seemed to stun the government. Spokesman Giorgos Petalotis said that it was “productive” for a minister to question his government’s policies. Privately, Papandreou and his aides debated whether the prime minister should react to what his minister had to say or even if he should consider ousting him.
Loverdos’s move comes at a testing time for the premier, whose government is coming under growing pressure for failing to meet the targets set by the troika. Speculation over the last few days about whether Greece would need further loans or might even quit the euro has only added to the strain being felt by Papandreou and his team.