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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Reformist Premier Elected to Replace Papandreou

ATHENS -- Former Industry Minister Costas Simitis on Thursday was elected premier of Greece.

Simitis replaces the ailing Andreas Papandreou, 76, who resigned Monday.

A technocrat and economist, he is expected to speed up Greece's economic stabilization program. Simitis and his Cabinet will likely be sworn in Saturday.

The former industry minister received 86 votes to Interior Minister Akis Tsochadzopoulos' 75 while six of the 167 deputies in the ruling Panhellenic Socialist Movement's, or Pasok's, Parliamentary group voted blank.

Simitis, 60, assured Greeks that tackling the country's economic problems would be one of his first priorities.

"I want to assure the Greek people that we will be a government of continuation and collective operation. The problems of the country need a speedy effort," he said.

Simitis defeated Tsochadzopoulos, Defense Minister Gerasimos Arsenis and former Deputy Premier Ioannis Haralambopoulos in two voting rounds

The new premier is a lawyer and professor of economics who was trained in Germany and Britain. He is very popular with the business community because of his reformist views.

Simitis has pledged to shrink Papandreou's bloated welfare state and implement a strict economic stabilization plan designed to bring Greece in line with the rest of the European Union by the end of the decade.

In the 1980s Simitis often clashed with Papandreou over the former premier's populist economic policies.

Simitis gained respect in the mid 1980s while serving as economics minister. Credited with instituting a successful stabilization program, he left his post after disagreeing with a decision by Papandreou to increase public spending that derailed his effort.

He also dissented with Papandreou following his 1993 appointment as industry minister. Simitis pushed for liberalizing Pasok in order to ensure its ability to govern in the post-Papandreou era.

Simitis most notably clashed with Papandreou's politically ambitious wife, Dimitra, 40. He resigned as industry minister last fall after disagreeing with Papandreou over the privatization of Greece's state-owned shipyards and accused his wife of meddling with his job in order to discredit him politically.

"United we can turn a new page in the political history of the land," Tsochadzopoulos said. "We will all support his efforts."

"All of you showed the will to go ahead into a new age," told the deputies.