Sunday, September 07, 2008

Karamanlis - Greek PM under siege

With the presence of 2000 extra police officers on the streets, snipers stationed on rooftops and helicopters circling overhead, downtown Thessaloniki resembles less a city celebrating the opening of a major trade fair than a town under siege.

The arrival of the Greek prime minister Kostas Karamalis in Greece’s second city has triggered massive street protests by those unhappy with his government’s handling of the economy and upset at a seemingly endless stream of financial scandals involving senior ministers.

In a keynote speech at the opening of the trade fair the prime minster tried to put a brave face on what has been a disasterous summer for the New Democracy administration by emphasising the need for reform of Greece’s ailing economy and by promoting public works such as the Thessaloniki underground which he says are proof that the present government has been able to improve the lives of ordinary Greeks.

However, critics have pointed out that despite five years of conservative rule the country, unlike neighbouring Turkey and Bulgaria has failed to attract increased foreign investment and that direct investment is now lower than in countries such as Uzbekistan.

Similarly, all except one of the major public works in Greece’s second city have ground to a halt due to lack of funding from Athens and that the much hyped underground is behind schedule and over budget.

Karamanlis and party officials have been keen to point out that Greece is suffering from the effects of worldwide problems caused by rising oil prices and a global credit crunch. However, many of the ruling New Democracy party’s problems appear to be strictly home made.

Their standing in the opinion polls has fallen dramatically over the 12 months since re-election as scandal after scandal has come to public light, many connected with dubious land deals involving ruling party MPs and ministers. As if to add to the government’s woes last week the party even faced accusations of tampering in a parliamentary vote.

In addition the rises in the cost of basic goods and services, which have long outstripped those in other European countries, stagnant wages and most recently swingeing tax increases for lower income groups have combined to undermine public confidence in the Greek government.

Opposition to government attempts to push through an unpopular political agenda has seen groups as disparate as cleaners and anarchists, police officers and communist trade unionists joined forces on the streets of Thessaloniki. Yesterday. Between ten and twenty thousand protesters marched to express their unhappiness with government policies and the state of the country’s political scene in general.

Whilst the march passed off peacefully, local media sources reported that small anarchist groups attacked shops and a bank afterwards and the police had made 15 arrests.


satel444 said...

hey! Congrats about your blog :) Amazing pictures too. I was also taking pictures yesterday outside of Helexpo and talked to you.
Keep up!

teacher dude said...

Great, I hope yours turned out great as well. Do you have a Flickr page?