Amendment has raised a storm among parliamentary deputies

Headlines in the pro-opposition press last week were just an indication of the effect had by the interior minister’s decision to fulfill the New Democracy party’s promise to give the communities of Vrahasi, Tsaritsani and Zoniana local government autonomy. «Civil war in the ND party over the Capodistrias plan,» «22 government deputies go independent,» and «Uprising over favors» were just three of these headlines. Obviously the government had not expected such repercussions, for it seems that the domino effect, with dozens of other communities suddenly calling for autonomy, appeared to have support across party lines in these areas. In an unprecedented move, 22 parliamentary deputies from the ruling party disagreed in public with the amendment, insisting that the government adopt the demands of the other communities now protesting their inclusion under the Capodistrias plan into larger municipalities and accusing their own party of reneging on its campaign promises. Even the usually moderate deputy speaker, Giorgos Sourlas, added his voice to those of the ND dissidents, accusing the Interior Ministry of «undemocratic and authoritarian behavior,» and reading out one of the party’s previous (2001) campaign platforms that questioned the Capodistrias program and claimed that «any community had the right to autonomy if (the demand) was passed in a local referendum.» Pavlopoulos rightly invoked the argument that the three communities included in the new amendment had proved to be extreme cases indeed. These villages for some reason had existed for the past eight years as quasi-independent and uncontrolled «states within a state,» since their inhabitants had not only not agreed to be incorporated into the Capodistrias municipalities but had not even had any police force. In order to back his arguments, Pavlopoulos recalled a speech by PASOK leader George Papandreou at a conference of the Central Union of Greek Municipalities (KEDKE) in Iraklion, Crete (October 21, 2004) in which Papandreou called for a «solution here and now for Vrahasi with a legislative amendment.» PASOK’s withdrawal That obviously explains, though does not justify, Papandreou’s decision to have the PASOK deputies walk out of the vote on the amendment, though just the previous day he had invited the government to explain to Parliament its decision to «dissolve» the Capodistrias plan. For it is certain that had the main opposition deputies remained in the House, Papandreou would have had to deal with a mutiny similar to that which occurred in ND. Yet there is another parameter that was not dealt with to any extent in the press, but is perhaps the real reason for the upheaval seen over the past few days on television, but which to most people is incomprehensible. The inhabitants of a small village rioting and waving black flags, threatening to descend on Athens, along with images of cars set alight, are no doubt good for television ratings. It is obviously no accident that these «local uprisings» took place just before the evening news began and then ended when the news programs were over. That fact is an embarrassment to the – unfortunately many – parliamentary deputies from all parties (including those of the left) that continue to support the autonomist ambitions of a few small communities claiming to be threatened with annihilation by the Capodistrias program. This petty partisan and vote-grabbing tactic is nothing more than the old argument used by thousands of Greeks that their village is of «unique» historical significance.