“I am sorry to say that we have elevated a terrorist, who has been condemned for his actions not just by the Greek justice system but also in the conscience of Greek citizens, into an influential factor of political life. It is a lamentable low.”
Were this comment not made by leftist opposition leader Alexis Tsipras, it would be a trite observation, lacking in freshness and urgency. Instead, it was startling to hear such a regret being expressed about an individual who had until very recently enjoyed the fervent support of top-flight SYRIZA officials that championed the hunger-striking November 17 terrorist’s demands. Where did the “broad front of support” for Dimitris Koufodinas go? Did it really vanish so fast, so completely?
By stressing that his party members did not walk behind the “I was born on November 17” banner that starred in the main protest rally in support of Koufodinas, Tsipras made a valiant effort to strike an ingenious balance, between the man “who decides whose life he will preserve and whose he will take” and the symbol the November 17 assassin might have become if he had continued his hunger strike and died.
The opposition leader had nothing to say, however, on how the “terrorist Koufodinas” nearly became a “martyr” or on who contributed to making him a popular hero.
Of course, before Tsipras came out with his startling comment, a public opinion poll had shown that 70% of respondents were in favor of the government’s rejection of Koufodinas’ demands, regardless of the outcome of the hunger strike, and 60.4% took a negative view of SYRIZA’s handing of the issue. It also came after SYRIZA MP Thodoris Dritsas took back his controversial remark, that “no one was terrorized by November 17.”
It was a spectacular turnaround by the party, driven only by political expediency.
The big question, however, remains: What do the leader of the main opposition and the SYRIZA party itself actually believe about this issue? Besides what they say and unsay responding to the public mood, what are their true beliefs? Because no matter how strongly the party’s reflexes may have been triggered to close the door on such undesirable leanings, no one can guarantee that they’ll stay outside forever.