Papendreou’s government takes shape

euronews channel-Greece’s new Prime Minister Georges Papandreou has wasted no time naming his economy and finance ministers, as he faces a ballooning deficit and soaring youth unemployment. Papendreou’s socialist Pasok party won last Sunday’s election with a comfortable majority in parliament, ousting conservative prime minister Costas Karamanlis.

57-year old Louka Katseli comes in as economy minister.She served as economic adviser to Papandreou’s father, Andreas, when he was prime minister in the 1990s. The post of finance minister has been given to 49-year old Georges Papaconstantinou, a close adviser to the new prime minister. He has played a leading role in the new face of Pasok.

One of the first challenges for the government is to draft next year’s budget by November. Greece’s deficit is estimated to be running at more than six percent. This is double the Euro zone’s limit of three percent. By splitting the ministry of national economy and finance in two, Papandreou has signalled that his government’s top priority is fighting the crisis.

French Socialists look to heal old wounds

Divided by differences, France’s beleaguered Socialist party has set out to heal ties in the hope of making itself electable.

Its leader Martine Aubry says she wants to restore morale by reforming its political agenda and obtain agreement on who should be its next presidential candidate.

“What have we heard in Nicolas Sarkozy’s big speeches…the hand on his heart..the finger always pointed at unscrupulous bosses to limit high salaries and bonuses…that’s what we’ve heard but today there’s been no result…still nothing,” she told the party’s annual strategy session in La Rochelle.

Still bruised after its bashing in the European elections, France’s Socialists have struggled to reverse their dwindling fortunes; so there is widespread agreement that big changes are needed.

Socialist deputy, Arnaud de Montebourg said: “I thought she was solid and creative. That’s what we need to move forward together and create a new left.”

Yet unresolved internal wrangles still threaten to derail the Socialists as members remain split over what direction the party should take.

Shake-up for French Socialists in bid to beat Sarkozy

France’s opposition Socialist leader has pledged a radical shake-up of the divided party, with US-style primaries to pick its next presidential candidate.

Last time round, the left’s big hope, Segolene Royal, failed to beat Nicolas Sarkozy. But activists, gathering for a summer conference, hope root and branch reform will produce a very different result in 2012.

Martine Aubry, who defeated Royal in a leadership vote last November, rallied the troops with calls for changes from A to Z.

That is music to the ears of Arnaud Montebourg, one of the Socialists’ rising stars, who threatened to quit the party unless the principle of primaries was accepted. For him, the overhaul promised by the leadership is nothing short of revolutionary, with the creation of a new Socialist Party the reward.

It has all got the gathering at the Atlantic Port of La Rochelle off to a buoyant start but some squabbling is set to continue. The big question now is whether the primaries should be open to others on the left or only Socialist Party members.

French socialists look for ‘US-style’ reform

The leader of the fractious French socialists Martine Aubry has pledged to rejuvenate and unite the divided party at its summer conference in La Rochelle.

Key to what she called an “A to Z renovation” would be American-style primaries to choose a candidate capable of challenging President Nicolas Sarkozy in the 2012 election.

Party members are eager for change.

“It’s wrong for the party to have remained unchanged for more than 100 years. It makes my hair stand on end. We must agree on primaries, but it must be done tomorrow and we must ensure that the infighting stops once and for all,” said one socialist supporter.

Announcing the launch of a consultation process to decide if the primaries should be open to everyone or just members of the Socialist Party, Aubry urged positive action.

“I’m not interested in empty promises or grandiose statements. I do not like too much navel gazing, I like the collective. I discuss, I discuss, I debate with my colleagues to fight for a better tomorrow,” she said.

Aubry has been facing mounting criticism from frustrated party members and a public that wants the socialists to stop squabbling and come up with new political and economic ideas.

French Socialists go for open primaries

French Socialist leader Martine Aubry has jumped off the fence and come down in favour of open primary elections for the next presidential candidate. Except that she has not said which sort in a press article out today.

Many of the party big guns had already plumped on an extended plebiscite as the best way to renew the PS and take it back into power. Unity is what it has always lacked.

“We want the vote to be open to anyone on the left, for the simple reason that candidates chosen by primaries can unite everyone better,” said a supporter of the idea.

However any move to make politics even more presidential in France is met with resistance. Some are very sceptical about primaries.

“I’m against them because I think we will produce another Segolene Royale, in other worlds a candidate who looks good in the media but who maybe is not the best,” said a party activist.

Others from the PS and beyond into the Communists, Greens, and factions of the centrist MODEM party, favour an even more radical reform; opening candidacy up as well, meaning a united left leader need not be a Socialist.