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The lead up to the Greek riots

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The lead up to the Greek riots


The latest explosion of anger in Greece has sparked the worst domestic violence since the Second World War, and dented still further the powerbase of the Conservative Prime Minister, Costas Karamanlis.

The Greek media is calling his “a rudderless government at sea.”

Karamanlis’ poll ratings are on the ropes. He was only re-elected with a tiny majority and has been trying to pass extremely unpopular reforms.

Just two months after he retained power, last
November, the students were in the streets protesting against his plans to allow private university education.

Fee paying higher education is banned in Greece and diplomas from foreign franchised universities are not recognised. The Greek government must deal with that as it contravenes EU law. But the protestors think it is a slippery slope.

“Having private and state universities will create class barriers. Rich people’s children will pay and get their degree, while a student that doesn’t have any money will struggle to get the same degree,” said one protestor in the street.

Then came the pension row. The government proposed that people work longer and not retire early. The government said it was essential, or the state pension fund would go bust within 15 years. It was also an EU demand. But the protestors didn’t want to listen.

“The reform measures are having an impact on all ages,” said one man. “Young workers, older workers. Women are paying the biggest cost. This legislation must not pass.”

The pension reform went through, and the social upheaval escalated. This Autumn a number of wildcat strikes ended in a general strike of both the public and private sector against the new pension laws, proposed tax increases and even the privatisation of Olympic Airways.

Discontent with the government was only heightened by the Mount Athos affair when two government ministers were implicated in an illegal land swap with a wealthy monastery, deemed to have cost the tax payer 100 million euros.

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