Alexis Tsipras’s argument was most enlightening. Describing as “unjust and expedient” the criticism leveled at his government for the new penal code which allows terrorist killers to apply for conditional release earlier than before, he chose to “disarm” the journalist who raised the subject. “What you are doing now is very annoying… You are reproducing fake news,” he declared. “I will answer, then, seeing as you are not acting as an opposition party but may have a healthy concern with the issue, as I know – and I respect this – that you now have a family relationship with a person who lost his father to November 17.”
Speaking to Skai Television anchor Sia Kosioni, the prime minister was referring to her husband, Kostas Bakoyannis – the newly elected mayor of Athens, whose father, a New Democracy MP, was killed by the terrorist gang in 1989. In a few words, Tsipras set out the basics of his political tactics. He was annoyed by the criticism. He muddied the waters with regard to his government’s role in the issue, saying that the penal code reform was a product of a committee and that the criticism was suspect. (At the same time, he expressed certainty that “no council will release Mr [Dimitris] Koufodinas,” the terrorist group’s chief hitman. But if terrorists are not eligible for early release, why would any council have to deal with their applications?)
By directing viewers’ attention to Kosioni’s personal life and not addressing the essence of the issue, Tsipras wanted to undermine her credibility and to disorient her (making her respond rather than pressing her question), while at the same time professing “sensitivity” for her concern. What he also did was show that he will stop at nothing to achieve his aim. And, as in the rest of the interview, this was not so much to sway those voters who will not vote for him anyhow, as, through a show of force, to persuade his own followers (and the undecided) that Sunday’s elections are not a lost cause.
Political exploitation of the dead has always been part of our politics. Victims of violence (by terrorists, police or anyone else), victims of poverty, state negligence or indifference are turned into symbols – as martyrs of one side or as a warning to the other. From the Civil War until today, we have defined ourselves with regard to symbolic victims. We do not see them as part of a wounded whole, but as “ours” and “theirs.” This is how we interpret the world, how we interpret each other’s motives and behavior. We cannot heal these wounds because we are always picking at them. Tsipras is hostage to this mentality. Both victim and expression of it, he cannot hide this.