Limits on protests dividing opinion

Reactions were mixed yesterday to a proposal by Public Order Ministry Vyron Polydoras to restrict street protests as the plan appears to have become a key issue for the upcoming municipal elections. In a letter sent to opposition leaders, union groups, businessmen and municipal authorities on Wednesday, Polydoras called for a discussion next month on curbing street protests in order to prevent problems such as traffic jams. Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas said the plan was a necessary step to address a problem that affects the city’s 5 million residents every day. «The city’s economic and social life is being tested,» the minister said. According to police, there were more than 900 marches in Athens between January 1, 2005 and June 30, 2006. The Communist party (KKE) said that the idea is unacceptable and refused to take part in the proposed discussion. Mayoral candidates for the Athens City Council also took a position on the controversial issue ahead of the October 15 elections. Nikitas Kaklamanis, backed by the conservative government, said that the discussion can help secure the democratic rights of the people. On the other hand, Socialist opponent Costas Skandalidis described the move as a pre-election stunt. Store owners welcomed the idea, saying protests harmed tourism and commerce.

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