President Anastasiades is not a big fan of cabinet reshuffles as his seven years in office have shown. His latest reshuffle was forced on him in a way by the impending departure of Harris Georgiades from the finance ministry that was announced months ago. He took the opportunity to replace two ministers he felt had not had a positive impact, but only one of the officials axed was not appointed to another post – outgoing transport minister Vassiliki Anastasiades.
Outgoing education minister Costas Hambiaouris, whose spell at the ministry was plagued by interminable disputes with teaching unions, was demoted to commissioner for the development of mountain communities, a post vacated a week earlier by the incumbent’s resignation. Deputy government spokesman, Klelia Vasiliou, who seemed to have an aversion to speaking in public, was made environment commissioner which must be regarded as a promotion.
The same is probably true of government spokesman Prodromos Prodromou. He may have been moved because the president was not happy with his performance as the voice of the government, but he’s ended up in charge of the education ministry, even if it is a poisoned chalice. Having to deal with teaching unions accustomed to imposing their diktats on the government, and calling strikes if they do not get their way, is not a challenge any politician would relish, especially knowing the president’s aversion to confrontations with unions.
The key post of finance minister, vacated by Georgiades, went to the pro-active and arguably the most capable member of the cabinet, Constantinos Petrides, who at interior never shied away from the many challenges faced by the ministry, undertaking reforms and always jumping in at the deep end. Moving him to finance, while he was in the process of reforming local government – a Petrides project – tackling the immigration problem and rationalising the issuing of building permits, did not seem a rational move on the president’s part. Worse still, he was replaced by Disy deputy, Nikos Nouris, who is little more than a loyal party man.
It was a reshuffle dictated by political expediency which has always been President Anastasiades’ guiding principle. He tried to compensate those he sacked by offering them alternative employment and the only appointment on which he took a risk was that of government spokesman, appointing a practising lawyer, Kyriacos Kousios, who has not had any active involvement in politics. Perhaps this was the type of profile the president wanted for the spokesman. Only time will tell whether he made the right choice.