August 27, 2018 / 8:56 AM / a month ago

Tarnished by bailout, Greek PM eyes reshuffle before election

* Election due by October 2019 at the latest

* Finance, foreign ministers seen keeping posts

* Syriza trailing in polls after years of bailout austerity

ATHENS, Aug 27 (Reuters) - Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras is poised to announce a cabinet reshuffle this week to freshen up a government lagging in the polls as the effects of painful bailouts still bite a year before a national election.

A meeting of senior figures in his leftist Syriza party later on Monday to launch a process for the selection of a new secretary is likely to pave the way for the reshuffle, which will not be wide-ranging, sources say.

The government needed to “renew itself before the next election”, a government source told Reuters.

Greece holds parliamentary elections every four years, with the next expected by October 2019 at the latest.

Based on the latest three opinion polls conducted by Greek media, Syriza is trailing the main opposition New Democracy conservatives by between 5.3 and 11.6 percentage points.

Tsipras was elected in 2015 promising to end years of austerity for Greece, imposed by international creditors. But he was forced to reverse course by the prospect of the country being kicked out of the euro zone and pursue deeper reforms under a third international bailout.

Austerity and political turmoil followed as the economy shrank by a quarter, pushing a third of the population into poverty and forcing the migration of thousands abroad.

The country emerged from that bailout programme last week. Greece has received 288 billion euros in financial aid since 2010, making it the biggest bailout in history.

Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos, who steered the country’s exit from the third bailout, was likely to remain in his post, sources said.

Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias, instrumental in brokering an accord ending years of dispute with Macedonia over its name, was also expected to stay on board.

Panos Skourletis, a Syriza stalwart who is presently interior minister, was widely speculated to be moving to a senior role within the party and out of the cabinet.

“Changes would make the party more effective and grounded, while the reshuffle should deliver a government ready for battle,” another government source said. (Reporting by Renee Maltezou and Michele Kambas, writing by Michele Kambas; Editing by Alison Williams)

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