Athens rivals clash over mosque referendum idea

New Democracy’s candidate for Athens mayor, Aris Spiliotopoulos, on Friday hit back at criticism from leftist parties over his pledge that he will hold a referendum on building a mosque in the Greek capital should he win May’s municipal election.

“Local ballots are linked to the participatory demos, to Athens, which was the birthplace of the ecclesia and the freedom of expression,” Spiliotopoulos said. “Who is afraid of and who does not trust the citizens?” he asked.

Earlier, his leftist rival, Gavriil Sakelaridis of SYRIZA, said that a referendum would be in violation of minority rights. “The issue [of a place of worship] cannot be put to vote, in the way that the issue cannot [be put to vote] in places where Christians are the minority,” he said.

In a statement, PASOK accused Spiliotopoulos of ignoring the basic principles of Western civilization, while Democratic Left said that human rights cannot be held ransom to political campaigning.