NEWS

Claims of a vast, unnamed conspiracy

Government sources yesterday began to focus on the possibility that business interests having dealings with the state may have played a role in the attempt to destabilize Greece’s political scene in recent days – including the allegation that President Costis Stephanopoulos rented a shop to someone who allegedly put illegal slot machines on the premises. The sources fear that a new round of mudslinging might be coming, aimed at the president and members of his family. The obvious intention would be for Stephanopoulos, who is known for his principles and sensitivity, to be forced to resign, thus destabilizing the political system and plunging the country into chaos. If the president resigns, Parliament must elect another with more than 180 votes in the 300-seat chamber. If it fails, elections must be called. The president was said to be completely calm yesterday, rejecting rumors of a possible resignation. On Thursday night he expressed his gratitude to all those who had expressed support for him. Greece’s political parties united in support of him and in condemnation of the allegation made against him earlier in the day by journalist Spyros Karadzaferis on Extra Channel. Yesterday, the government sought to play down the possibility of Stephanopoulos resigning on Thursday. «Under no circumstances was there an issue of the president of the republic resigning,» spokesman Christos Protopappas said. «Democracy can defend itself and every attack on institutions will meet with the united reaction of the Greek people.» But the government still fears the incident is not over, as it is convinced that the attack on Stephanopoulos was orchestrated by a specific «extra-institutional center» with «many capabilities,» as one source put it. For this reason, a senior government official told Kathimerini, «this extra-institutional intervention has to be brought under control at any cost.» PM Costas Simitis met with aides yesterday to evaluate the situation. Shortly afterward, the chairman of the National Broadcast Council sent a letter to Protoppapas, who is the press minister, calling on him to stop the broadcasting of Extra Channel (which is owned by Avriani tabloid owner Giorgos Kouris) if it is determined that the station was not operating when Article 17 of Law 2644/98 came into effect. Protoppapas said he had unsuccessfully tried to get Kouris to prevent the broadcast of the «unethical and ridiculous act.» New Democracy and its leader, Costas Karamanlis, believe the problem has been caused by business interests tangled up with the State. The party’s honorary chairman, Constantine Mitsotakis, however, focused on the fact that Stephanopoulos had not responded to the allegation. «The response to a journalist report cannot be to demonizeand insult him, but needs a substantial response because that is what democracy demands,» he said.