New Greek cabinet sworn in after reshuffle

Associated Press
Socialist leader Evangelos Venizelos leaves the official residence of conservative Prime Minister Antonis Samaras in Athens on Monday, June 24, 2013. Members of Venizelos' PASOK party are expecded to be handed top posts in a cabinet reshuffle due to be finalized late Monday, in the wake of a political crisis triggered by Samaras' decision to shut down state broadcaster ERT. Samaras’ year-old government narrowly avoided collapse after he ordered ERT’s closure on June 11. Coalition member Democratic Left pulled out of the government last week, cutting its majority in parliament to just three seats. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Greece's new cabinet was sworn in Tuesday after a broad reshuffle in which conservative Prime Minister Antonis Samaras handed key posts to the coalition government's minority Socialist party following a political crisis.

Samaras' year-old coalition government narrowly avoided collapse after he ordered the sudden closure of the state broadcaster, ERT, on June 11, and the firing of all the company's 2,656 employees.

Coalition member Democratic Left pulled out of the coalition last week over the issue. The two-party coalition government now has only a slender majority in parliament, controlling 153 seats of the 300 seats.

The prime minister reshuffled his cabinet late Monday, appointing new ministers for the posts of foreign affairs, justice, administrative reform, transport and defense, among others. The key post of finance minister was unchanged, with Yannis Stournaras remaining in the position to push through more wide-ranging economic reforms.

Socialist party head Evangelos Venizelos, who led tough financial negotiations with Greece's creditors during his term as finance minister in 2011 but who has seen his party's popularity plummet, was named deputy prime minister and foreign minister.

The new cabinet was to convene immediately after the swearing-in ceremony, held in the presidential palace.

The deep financial crisis Greece has been struggling through for the past three years has caused considerable political instability in the country.

Samaras managed to cobble together an uneasy three-party coalition a year ago after two consecutive elections failed to produce a winner with enough parliamentary seats to govern alone.

Greece still faces some of its toughest reforms since it began receiving rescue loans in 2010 from an international bailout from its other euro countries and the International Monetary Fund.

In return for the funds, Athens has pledged a series of deep spending cuts and tax hikes in an effort to reform the economy. But the measures have also led to a deep recession, currently in its sixth year, while unemployment has climbed to above 27 percent.

ERT's closure was triggered in part by Greece's pledge to fire 15,000 public sector employees by the end of next year.