Brinkmanship over Athens Polytechnic anniversary march trumps health

Brinkmanship over Athens Polytechnic anniversary march trumps health

With the health crisis in full swing, Tuesday’s anniversary of the 1973 student uprising against the military junta is seen as a test of the government’s resilience in the face of a politically charged atmosphere due to the ban on public gatherings and rallies due to the pandemic.

Despite health experts insisting that the coming week will be critical, the ban on gatherings of more than four people has been deplored by all three of the left-wing parties in Parliament as it also scraps the traditional march in Athens ending at the US Embassy. 

Greece’s highest administrative court, the Council of State (CoS), on Monday rejected an injunction submitted by the MeRA25 party, human rights groups and ordinary citizens to lift a blanket ban on rallies ahead of the anniversary, citing the public interest and the protection of public health.

Bidding to defuse the political tension on Monday, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis called for restraint and urged political party leaders to join “a joint initiative of honor at the Polytechnic,” asking them all to lay a flower, led by Greek President Katerina Sakellaropoulou. 

Mitsotakis rejected the allegations of polarization attributed to him by the opposition, saying it would be “unthinkable” for conflict to erupt at a time when “unity and adherence to the instructions of experts are required.” He added that “at this critical moment, the historic anniversary cannot be a cause of division, placing at risk human lives in the name of partisan experiments.” 

He reminded critics that Greece also did not celebrate the March 25 and October 28 national holidays, “but that did not diminish their importance.” 

Kathimerini understands that recent polls have shown that around 84% of people are against holding the march this year. The breakdown by party voters is even more revealing, with 94% of ruling New Democracy voters saying “no” to the march, as did 85% of center-left KINAL voters. What’s more, an impressive six out of 10 SYRIZA voters and 50% of communist KKE voters are also against the march. 

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