Greek opposition parties attack govt over forest fires

Greek opposition parties attack govt over forest fires

28 August 2007

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Athens, Greece — Greek opposition parties have taken advantage of country’s forest fire situation in order to launch a fierce attack on the government. About 2,000 activists of left parties marched along Athens streets on Monday evening chanting slogans “down with the government.” The country’s early parliamentary elections will be held on September 16.

Leader of the opposition Socialist PASOK party George Papandreou slammed the Cabinet for inability to effectively fight tens of hotspots of catastrophic forest fires in the country that have killed 63 people. “This government was proven to be totally incompetent, unable to handle the fire crisis, like all the other crises it encountered in its four-year administration,” the PASOK leader said on Monday.

Papandreou put special emphasis on the use by the government of the “asymmetric threat” term meaning an organised plan for setting forests on fire by certain terrorist or criminal groups. The PASOK leader urged the prime minister to provide all information for proving such accusations, otherwise the prime minister himself undermines the country’s international position. In the view of Papandreou, owing to the Greek prime minister’s statements Greece is viewed by the international press as a lair of terrorists and the country’s positions in the international arena are weakened and its tourism business is jeopardised.

Papandreou joined criticism of small political parties hoping to get advantage at the upcoming elections by means of criticising the actions of the government. According to recent public opinion polls that were held ahead of the catastrophic forest fires wave, the ruling centre right party New Democracy was ahead of the opposition PASOK party just by 1.5-1.6 percent of the potential electorate votes.

Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis was way ahead of Papandreou, his main rival in the struggle for the post of the prime minister, in terms of personal popularity among the voters.

According to an opinion poll conducted by the GPO Institute, 51.4 percent of those polled expressed the view that Karamanlis best of all matches their idea of the Greek prime minister (42.1 percent of the respondents had the same view about Papandreou).

The prime minister instructed the government ministers not to get involved in internal political struggle and not to react to accusations made by opposition parties, as long as the country has yet to extinguish tens of forest fires threatening populated localities.

In the view of Karamanlis, it is necessary first of all to exert efforts to save people’s lives and save forests. The government allocated over 200 million euros as urgent aid to people, farms and communities affected by catastrophic forest fires in recent days and announced a number of other measures ranging from the assistance in the restoration of burnt houses to temporary relieving enterprises from paying taxes. Greece has also requested an urgent economic aid from the European Union worth 4.1 billion euros.

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