Police force becomes a political battlefield

The police, beleaguered following December’s rioting and January’s terrorist attack that left an officer injured, were yesterday at the center of a tug of war between the government and PASOK. In an unusual turn of events, PASOK leader George Papandreou paid a surprise midnight visit to police headquarters on Alexandras Avenue and a police station in the Kypseli neighborhood, where he spoke with officers about their concerns and working conditions. Not to be outdone, Alternate Interior Minister Christos Markoyiannakis, who is responsible for public order matters, made an overnight visit to the Exarchia, Omonia and Acropolis police stations with Police Chief Vassilis Tsiatouras in tow. PASOK claimed that Markoyiannakis only made the unannounced visits as a reaction to Papandreou’s action but the government denies this was the case. The Socialists, meanwhile, denied a rumor that the officer who greeted Papandreou in Kypseli was drunk. Government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros accused Papandreou of «populism» and only making the visits in an effort to grab attention. «I will say to the opposition that when it wants to criticize, it should do so based on real fact and not fantasy,» said Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos, who accused PASOK of undermining Greece’s institutions. Yesterday morning, Papandreou met with high-ranking MPs to discuss how PASOK should formulate its policy on public security, which is an area in which the Socialists believe they can make headway, given the apparent low morale in the police force and the public’s growing insecurity.

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