Parliament is expected on Friday to be the setting for a clash between Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and conservative New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis after the latter challenged the premier to a debate on law and order amid a spike in crime in the capital.
Sources close to Tsipras indicated on Thursday that they believed the premier would hold his own in the exchange following a series of breakthroughs by the Greek Police in recent days, notably the arrest of suspects linked to the killing of Athens criminal lawyer Michalis Zafeiropoulos last month and a 29-year-old man believed to be behind letter bomb attacks on former premier Lucas Papademos and European officials earlier this year.
Earlier this week, Mitsotakis indicated that the government could not take credit for the success of the counterterrorism force.
“When the Greek Police is allowed to do its job, it works with professionalism and effectiveness, when it is prevented we see phenomena on the street,” Mitsotakis told the chief of the Greek Police force, Lieutenant General Costas Tsouvalas.
Notwithstanding these successes by the police, Mitsotakis is expected to reiterate his accusations that leftist SYRIZA tolerates far-left and anarchist groups that have been behind a spate of crime in recent weeks and months.
Those incidents include a firebomb attack against a police precinct in Pefki, northern Athens, last month that caused no injuries but which police sources said had been intended to shed blood, and a raid by members of the anarchist group Rouvikonas (Rubicon) on the capital’s Evangelismos Hospital, where they threatened a doctor who had allegedly accepted “fakelakia” (bribes for medical care which should be free).
Tsipras is expected to grasp the opportunity to shift the debate away from law and order to Greece’s scheduled exit from its third international bailout program next summer, the planned distribution of a so-called social dividend to Greeks on low incomes, and other issues that are more politically palatable to the government.
Mitsotakis, for his part, is expected to stick to his original claims, blaming Tsipras for a spate of crime and lawlessness. But he is also expected to provide a counterproposal for Tsipras’s pledges on social dividends, elaborating on ND’s social welfare policy agenda.