12 Nov 2011

Political tyro takes office as Greece's new PM

4:33 pm on 12 November 2011

An economist who has never held elected political office is Greece's new prime minister. On being sworn in, Lucas Papademos said his main priority is keeping Greece in the eurozone.

At a colourful swearing-in ceremony in the capital, Athens, black-robed Orthodox priests led by the Archbishop of Athens blessed Mr Papademos and a cabinet dominated by the two main parties that bickered for four days before agreeing on an interim coalition government of national unity.

"With the unity of all people, we will succeed," Mr Papademos told George Papandreou, who led the previous administration that fell apart last week.

The coalition, which the BBC reports controls 254 of 300 parliamentary seats, will hold power until an election is held, probably in February.

Apart from Mr Papademos, the cabinet's main new face is from the LAOS party - the first time the far right has joined a Greek government since a military junta fell in 1974.

The line-up includes Socialist party power-broker Evangelos Venizelos, who keeps the post of finance minister that he held in Mr Papandreou's government.

Analysts say Mr Papademos - a quiet academic economist who was vice-president of the European Central Bank from 2002 to 2010 - will have to assert his authority over a cabinet packed with the very politicians who took turns in power for decades as Greece built up unmanageable debt.

The new government, which has a bumper 48 ministers and deputies, plans to announce its platform on Monday evening (local time), then conduct a debate and win a confidence vote in parliament by early next week.

It is expected to move quickly to pass the latest bailout package - which requires state asset sales and public-sector cuts - in order to get hold of €130 billion ($228 billion) in long-term funds.