Faced with a number of reforms that still need to be carried out, the government again got sidetracked on Monday as it attempted to dispel the image that its members are constantly coming under attack when they appear in public.
Government spokesman Giorgos Petalotis was forced to insist that officials would not bow to the pressure created by small groups of protesters after students clashed with police on Syros as Prime Minister George Papandreou arrived on the island and following an intensification of the row between Deputy Prime Minister Theodoros Pangalos and the Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA).
Students from the University of the Aegean protested in Syros?s capital, Ermoupoli, as Papandreou gave a teleconference to businessmen from the Cycladic islands about the economic measures his government is taking. Riot police used stun grenades to push the students back so they could not reach the cultural center where Papandreou was speaking but the protesters threw rocks and paint at the officers. Authorities responded by firing tear gas. Two policeman suffered light injuries as a result of the scuffles.
Petalotis said the government would not be deterred by protests of this kind. ?Our message is that this government will be everywhere in order to solve citizens? problems,? he said. ?We are the government and we are exercising the political power at these difficult times and nobody can terrorize us.?
The spokesman also expressed support for Pangalos in his ongoing dispute with SYRIZA, which he blames for several personal attacks on him, including one at a taverna last week. ?He has been on the receiving end of repeated unacceptable behavior.?
The deputy prime minister raised the stakes in his row with the leftists by accusing them of ?paying Albanians? to attack him when he was having dinner with nine other PASOK MPs just outside Athens last week. He also said that SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras was stoking violent attacks against him. ?With the words he uses, he is bringing about my murder and I warn him, he will be responsible for any act against me.?
Pangalos also suggested that the arsonists who set fire to a branch of Marfin Bank during a protest in Athens last May, killing three people, broke off from a block of SYRIZA supporters.
Tsipras responded by labeling Pangalos?s claims as ?disgusting slander.? He asked Papandreou to condemn the comments.