Greece Swears In Caretaker Cabinet

Posted May 17th, 2012 at 10:35 am (UTC-5)
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Greece has sworn in a caretaker Cabinet just days after parties failed to form a coalition government.

The 16-member Cabinet was sworn in Thursday in Athens.

The interim government will be led by a senior judge, Council of State head Panagiotis Pikrammenos, who was appointed caretaker prime minister.

The 67-year-old Mr. Pikrammenos will be tasked with organizing the country's repeat elections scheduled for June 17.

Analysts say the new elections, like those held earlier this month, are also likely to produce a so-called “hung parliament” with no party securing enough votes to form a government. But a radical left coalition led by Alexis Tsipras, the Syriza party leader who fiercely opposes austerity measures, has gained enough support to have a major influence.

The political stalemate has led to worries among eurozone financial ministers that Greece will not uphold the austerity commitments it made to secure the country's second financial bailout in the last two years.

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said that it is not possible to change the commitments the previous Greek government made for the austerity plan. But he said Greeks have the choice to leave the 17-member eurozone.

Some Greeks have said they would support a return to their former domestic currency, the drachma.

But International Monetary Fund head Christine Lagarde warns that Greece's exit from the eurozone would be extremely expensive and hard. Speaking on Dutch public television Wednesday, she called on Greek leaders to stick to the bailout agreement made with the IMF and the European Union.

The Greek political impasse has rattled European markets and threatens to undermine the eurozone. The issue figured high in the first official talks Tuesday between France's new president, Francois Hollande, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel. During the meeting in Berlin, the two leaders said they support Greece staying in the currency union.

The austerity measures include deep spending cuts, tax hikes, pension cuts and eliminating thousands of government jobs. Greeks have taken to the streets in sometimes violent protests against the bailout requirements.