Cyprus’ president picks new defense minister, shakes up Cabinet

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NICOSIA, Cyprus — Cyprus’ president on Monday moved ahead with a considerable shake-up of his Cabinet, replacing his ministers of defense, health, justice and environment as well as the deputy ministers responsible for digital policy and European affairs in one fell swoop after just 10 months in power.

Monday’s move comes after weeklong speculation about which of the 16 Cabinet posts would see new faces following a newspaper interview in which President Nikos Christodoulides indicated the changes were coming soon. The appointments take effect Wednesday.

Vassilis Palmas, the new defense minister, is a veteran politician who has acted as government spokesman and a deputy minister in two previous administrations.

The new health minister, Michalis Damianos, is a lawyer with his own practice, while history professor Maria Panayiotou gets a promotion from environment commissioner to environment and agriculture minister.

Marios Hartsiotis, a lawyer with a theology degree, takes up the justice ministry. Another notable appointment is that of Marilena Raouna, a close associate of Christodoulides, who moves over from chief of the president’s diplomatic office to the post of deputy minister for European affairs.

In the interview with daily Fileleftheros on Dec. 31, Christodoulides said he “would certainly” reshuffle his Cabinet before the first 18 months of his five-year tenure, saying that some ministers “met expectations and some less.”

That appeared to have rattled his Cabinet, prompting Christodoulides to tell his ministers publicly during a meeting last week to discount media speculation and assuring them they would hear any changes personally from him.

But the speculation and its associated pressures prompted the previous deputy minister of innovation, research and digital policy, Philippos Hadjizacharias, to resign three days prior to Monday’s actual Cabinet reshuffle.

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