Prime Minister Antonis Samaras marked Thursday’s 40th anniversary of the end of the military dictatorship by saying that democracy has “deep roots” in Greece but the government’s spokeswoman found herself in disagreement with President Karolos Papoulias, who argued that democracy has suffered during the country’s economic crisis.
“Democracy has very deep roots in Greece, having been fed by the struggles and sacrifices of the Greek people,” said Samaras, who accompanied Papoulias to an exhibition in the Parliament building on the restoration of democracy in 1974.
Earlier, Papoulias had expressed concern about the current state of democracy in Greece.
“The crisis has caused democracy to regress and this is perhaps the most dramatic side effect of our economic adventure,” said Papoulias in a statement to mark the 40-year anniversary. “The quality of parliamentarianism, exchanges between parties, political dialogue and the way decisions are taken by the executive has been severely damaged.”
The president went on to note the rise of Golden Dawn during the crisis. “One can put forward a number of interpretations for this development, which does not speak well for us as a country or a people, but the essence is that democracy has suffered numerous blows.”
However, government spokesperson Sofia Voultepsi provided a different interpretation. She argued that democracy has not regressed but people’s respect for it has diminished. She said that there is a clear distinction between the dictatorship and today’s parliamentary system.
“It is not a junta when they cut your salary or pension but when you do not have freedom, when Parliament has been closed and there is torture, imprisonment, exile and gatherings, protests and strikes are banned,” she said.