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Greece to Get ‘Cleanup’ Coalition Regime

From Reuters

Conservative Greek Prime Minister-designate Tzannis Tzannetakis, a compromise choice in an unprecedented Communist-rightist agreement, began forming a new government Saturday dedicated to prosecuting outgoing socialist ministers.

Tzannetakis, 62, was asked by President Christos Sartzetakis to form a Cabinet after a Communist alliance and the conservative New Democracy Party agreed to join forces and support a short-term “cleanup” government.

The government will be announced and sworn in today.

Tzannetakis, a former New Democracy minister and career navy officer, told reporters his Cabinet would reflect the determination of the Communist-conservative alliance “to cleanse and to restore institutions and democracy.”

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The two camps, bitterly divided for years after the 1946-49 civil war, united on a single issue--prosecuting socialist ministers accused of involvement in a series of multimillion-dollar financial scandals.

Greece has been in a political crisis since inconclusive elections on June 18, with the main parties--New Democracy and the socialists--vying for the support of the power-broker Communists.

Communist Party leader Harilaos Florakis told reporters: “We have decided to support a government under Tzannetakis, which will be for a short period of time, and its sole purpose will be cleansing.”

Outgoing Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou, soundly defeated and recovering from pneumonia in a hospital, issued a defiant statement denouncing “the shameless forming of a coalition of conservatism with the sole purpose of harming the great popular (socialist) movement.”

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Communists’ Role Unclear

It was unclear whether the Communists would have ministers in a government for the first time since 1944 or simply support the conservatives in Parliament.

New Democracy emerged as the largest party in the 300-seat Parliament, with 145 seats, but fell short of an absolute majority. The Communist-led alliance, with 28 seats, has held the balance of power.

Bogged down by the financial scandals, Papandreou’s Panhellenic Socialist Movement, which swept to landslide victories in 1981 and 1985, could only muster 125 seats.

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The most prominent affair stems from an embezzlement scheme at the private Bank of Crete, in which socialists are accused of pocketing interest payments on state accounts. More than $200 million disappeared.

Papandreou struggled in vain from his hospital bed to coax the Communists into a left-wing coalition, but with the designation of Tzannetakis as new prime minister, the curtain was brought down on eight years of socialist rule.

New Democracy leader Constantine Mitsotakis cleared the way for the historic alliance on Friday by renouncing his claim to be prime minister and putting forward the name of Tzannetakis, a close personal friend and political ally.

Mitsotakis remains head of New Democracy and intends to lead the conservatives in elections after Parliament has started the legal process for lifting immunity for socialist ministers and criminal probes, probably in September.

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