NEWS

Political war of words

The torrent of revelations concerning businessman Socrates Kokkalis regarding close ties to the former East German security apparatus, the Stasi, and the suggestion that he may have funneled East German funds to the ruling PASOK party and – to a lesser extent – opposition parties in the mid-1980s, stoked a heated political exchange over the weekend. Prime Minister Costas Simitis, on a tour of northern Greece, assailed the conservative New Democracy party for creating what he called a climate of instability resembling that of before the military coup d’etat of 1967. New Democracy leader Costas Karamanlis retorted that Simitis was betraying his panic at the thought of losing the next elections. The government spokesman yesterday summed up, saying that, «It is clear that in recent days we are witnessing an alliance of those who are trying to undermine politics, some interests who want to manage, in the way they think best, the funds and the potential for development of the Greek people, and of the right wing, which, unable to express itself in a political way, is watching and rubbing its hands at the sight of these negative developments.» Indirectly admitting the vagueness of the claim, Christos Protopappas added, «Naturally, we will unmask this alliance.» On Saturday, speaking at a party gathering in Edessa in northern Greece, Simitis issued a call to arms. «We must raise a front against the efforts to undermine politics, against the efforts to weaken democracy. Because if we look carefully at those who move in this murky landscape, we will remember some older eras with murky landscapes which brought dictatorship upon Greece and caused the country to slip back many years,» the prime minister said. «PASOK expresses the Greek people’s overwhelming ‘no’ to all those who, unable to win the political battle, unable to win the confidence of the people, unable to win elections as foreseen by the Constitution and democracy, have chosen another strategy, a strategy which is reminiscent of a policy of undermining democracy,» he added. Karamanlis, at a New Democracy rally in Preveza, western Greece, responded: «After 20 years in power, they cannot believe that they will lose. Let them lose with dignity rather than make a mockery of themselves by presenting this wretched image of absurdity. Mr Simitis is panic-stricken by the coming defeat.» National elections will be held at the end of the four-year term in 2004, the government spokesman reiterated yesterday.