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Greeks are getting personal. Increasingly angry with politicians they blame for dragging their country to the brink of financial ruin, they are picketing their homes, jeering them and even pelting them with yoghurt.
As the debt crisis deepens, the incidents multiply. Greek media have counted more than 80 verbal and physical attacks against MPs in recent months, prompting Prime Minister George Papandreou this week to condemn the spate of violence. “It must be made clear to all that attacks against parliamentarians and citizens mutilate democracy,” Papandreou told his cabinet in nationally televised comments.
Long seen as honest and affable, Papandreou himself has not been spared attacks, drawing boos at public appearances since imposing harsh austerity in exchange for a 110-billion-euro IMF/EU bailout a year ago. “People see that politicians have cheated them and anger grows,” said Dimitris Kollatos, a theatre director who launched the Door-to-Door movement, organising pickets at politicians’ houses. “It will get worse this winter.”
The public blames the entire political class for decades of corruption and mismanagement that have brought Greece close to bankruptcy and debt default. At daily protests in the central Syntagma Square, nooses swing from mock gallows as crowds chant “Thieves, Thieves” at parliament.
Fury is directed at all parties. Hundreds have protested recently at the homes of former prime ministers Costas Simitis, a socialist, and Costas Karamanlis, a conservative. “Going to people’s homes to protest is an ancient Greek tradition,” Kollatos told Reuters in Athens, home to one of the first known democracies. “If you are a politician who mocks people and abuses power, we have a right to come to your home.”
Door-to-Door is peaceful, usually shouting slogans such as “Where did you get the money?” and “Apologise!”. But some protests have been violent.
Former conservative transport minister Costis Hatzidakis was hospitalised in December after being attacked by bus driver union members with sticks and stones outside parliament. But the most common form of protest is jeers and derogatory slogans as politicians appear in public, either for work or just dining out with their families. Some have confessed to friends they have cancelled social outings for fear of being harassed.
The ruling socialists are blaming the Left Coalition party of instigating many of these attacks but the leftists deny any involvement, saying people’s righteous indignation is justified.
“I will not be intimidated by this ideological terrorism,” Civil Protection Minister Christos Papoutsis, in charge of police, told parliament this week, referring to protests at his house he said were politically motivated. “Stay away from my wife and child,” he said.
Another popular way to show anger is to hurl yoghurt at politicians. At least 5 have been subjected to this so far, including Communist Party (KKE) deputy Liana Kanelli on her way to parliament for a vote on a fresh wave of austerity measures. “I tasted it and it was good quality,” she joked with reporters after being pelted in June. “Thankfully, I had another shirt with me.”
Health Minister Andreas Loverdos was less amused when he and his entourage were attacked with eggs and other projectiles in April, sending some socialist officials to hospital. “It was not enough for them to shout, they came to strike us,” he said. “But nobody can stop us from doing our work.”
Kollatos said his group was in favour of throwing yoghurt as a benign way of protesting but nothing beyond that. “Yoghurt is not bad. An egg’s a little bit worse,” he said