Tag Archives: Aleka Papariga

On yogurts as a form of political protest in Greece

The co-ruling PASOK party had its national conference today. Its goal is to elect the new party leader who will succeed George Papandreou and will lead the Socialists in the coming elections. The candidates are Christos Papoutsis and Evangelos Venizelos. At some point, an old man, member of PASOK himself, approached Venizelos, complained about the cuts in his pension and then threw him a yogurt before being carried out by bodyguards outside the hall.

This is the latest in a series of food throwing that has reemerged during the past two years of the crisis as a means of political protest.

Greek yogurt

Originally, “yogurt throwing” was a means of protest against authority by Greek youngsters in the late 1950s. They were called “Teddy Boys”, a name borrowed from the homonymous British subculture. You see, food throwing was traditionally a form of protest (preferable rotten eggs or tomatoes) but it was only in 1950s when the plastic cup substituted yogurt’s classic ceramic pot, a marketing move that made yogurt a non-lethal weapon. The trend of yogurt-throwing was fiercely fought by the authorities with the legendary “Law 4000/1958” according to which offenders were arrested, had their heads shaved and paraded through the streets of Athens.

A teddy boy is paraded in the streets of Athens with his head shaved.

The law also inspired a movie (Law 4000). Here’s a great excerpt that needs no subtitles.

The law was withdrawn in 1983, by Andreas Papandreou. In 1997, a builder who was member of the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) threw a yogurt on the then Minister of Employment, Miltiadis Papaioannou (now Minister of Justice) and his then Deputy Minister Christos Protopappas (now PASOK’s Parliamentary Group Representative) . The court decided that yogurt throwing was not an offense that had to be tried automatically but only if a lawsuit is filed by the victim.

During the past two years of the Greek crisis, attacks by angry citizens against politicians have become a frequent phenomenon. At the beginning there were verbal attacks, in restaurants and in the streets. Politicians began to walk less freely in the street without bodyguards, especially after Kostis Hatzidakis, a New Democracy MP, was brutally attacked by protesters in December of 2010.

The verbal attacks are still the norm wherever politicians appear in public (e.g. see what happened in the 28th October military parades – btw these days the government had a meeting to assess the security situation in view of the 25th of March Independence Day parades) Soon food throwing reappeared. The most popular “weapons” have been yogurt, eggs and, at times, tomatoes.

According to an article of Eleftherotypia newspaper, written by Georgia Linardou, in 2011 two members of the government and one MP have been attacked with yogurts. Last March, the vice president of the government Theodoros Pangalos was attacked while having dinner at a town just outside Athens. Some months later, Minister of Interior Haris Kastanidis was attacked in a similar fashion while watching “Midnight in Paris” at a cinema in Thessaloniki. Liana Kanelli, an MP with the Communist Party of Greece, has also been attacked with yogurt in June 2011, while she was trying to get through a block of protesters in order to reach the Parliament for the vote on the Mid-Term Program.

As for attacks with eggs, the list is longer, probably thanks to the different characteristics of this sort of food when used as a missile (their position on the day of the attack):

  • Manolis Othonas, Deputy Minister for Citizen Protection
  • Ilias Mosialos, Minister of State
  • Kostas Skandalidis, Deputy Minister of Agriculture
  • Andreas Loverdos, Minister of Health
  • Anna Diamantopoulou, Minister of Education
  • Giorgos Petalotis, Government Spokesman

Also:

  • Asterios Rontoulis, MP with LAOS
  • Dora Bakoyanis, Democratic Alliance party leader
  • Spiros Taliadouros, MP with New Democracy

In 2010 Alekos Alavanos was also attacked, with yogurts, during SYRIZA’s campaign for that year’s local elections.

Many politicians have criticized this form of protest. KKE’s leader, Aleka Papariga, has said that yogurt-throwers are people who have voted for PASOK or New Democracy and that the act itself is not some particular act of resistance but rather a bourgeois reaction that defuses the social discontent. Deputy Minister of Regional Development, Sokratis Xinidis, preferred some self-criticism when he said “The time has come for all of us to pay the price. I am ready to be thrown a yogurt…”

There’s a great article about the presence of food in Greek politics. It’s called “Bread, Milk, and the Greek Parliamentary Record” and is written by Leo Vournelis, here. Another interesting aspect can be read in “Eating in Times of Financial Crisis” also hosted on the website of the Society for the Anthropology of Food and Nutrition.

Finally, let me remind the readers of a historical recurrence. This is the second time that Evangelos Venizelos is trying to win the leadership of PASOK. The first time was back in 2007, in a mutiny-styled manoeuvre when he appeared as a candidate practically on the same night his party, then led by George Papandreou, lost the elections. In the following days few cared about the newly elected government – the top story was what was happening inside PASOK. In those polarized (for PASOK supporters) times, another party member threw a coffee on Venizelos while he was entering the party offices.

What I still remember from that video is Venizelos’ reaction. See at 1:33 for a better a view of it. Scary isn’t it?

UPDATE: Another interesting read is “The Dangers of Yoghurtification as a Political Movement in Greece“.

A poll for Papademos

PM Lucas Papademos at the Greek Parliament

A new opinion poll is presented today by Sunday’s Ethnos newspaper. It’s questions (and the results as a consequence) are constructed in a way to show that Lucas Papademos is the best we (can) have. Here are the results and some comments from me (in italics).

The participants were asked to choose between two politicians on who is the most appropriate for Prime Minister.

Current PM Lucas Papademos scored 54,3% against New Democracy leader Antonis Samaras, who got 21,7%, while 24% denied to give an answer.

Against PASOK’s George Papandreou, Lucas Papademos was preferred by 71,8% to only 3,8%. Another 24,4% did not reply.

Between Antonis Samaras and George Papandreou the score was 38,3% to 10,7%. The remaining 51% did not reply.

This looked a bit dodgy to me as I haven’t seen this practice for a long time. Placing Papademos in a dilemma against worn out politicians, bearing their sins from the past, makes him look like the Messiah. Indirectly what I can see is the need for new political parties rather than the legimization of the technocrats around Europe. He is not the Messiah, he’s a very naughty boy.

On whether the co-operation government under Lucas Papademos is a positive or negative development for our country, 40,4% replied “Positive”, 16,6% replied “rather positive”, 9% replied “rather negative” and 37,7% gave a negative answer while 6,8% did not reply.

35,7% of the interviewees had a positive view of Papademos, 27% had a “rather positive” view, 10,4% was rather negative and the stance for the 19,3% was simply negative. A no-reply was given by 7,6%.

Surprisingly there was a question on whether the interviewee wished that the new government’s efforts suceed. An 83,6% replied “Yes”, a 4,4% did not want to give an answer and a whole 12% wished that their efforts will not suceed.

You might wander, why on earth are there Greeks who wish to see their country failing? well, this is a characteristic of this nation since antiquity, it never unites until it’s inevitable or until there is a common foreign ennemy. A reason for wanting this government to fail might also be a need to show that technocrats’ governments are not efficient. In any case, it’s not just the “irresponsible” citizens/interviewees who think that way. One simply has to see behind the current government’s (of cooperation?) sluggishness and he’ll discover Ministers sabotaging one another in view of the next elections. An illegitimate government that feels that way and has its mind in the elections.

Back to the poll, 13,2% would like to see Papademos becoming a politician with one of the existing political parties after the end of the current administration, a 35,3% wishes to see him stepping down from politics and a 30,5% wants Papademos to found a new party. The rest 21% had no opinion on the matter.

As for popularity, here’s the ranking.

Lucas Papademos: 62,7% positive/rather positive view and 29,7% negative/rather negative view.

Fotis Kouvelis (Democratic Left): 47,3% positive/rather positive view and 44,7% negative/rather negative view.

Giannis Dimaras (Panhellenic Citizens’ Chariot): 36,8% positive/rather positive view and 52,4% negative/rather negative view.

Alexis Tsipras (SYRIZA): 35,5% positive/rather positive view and 62,4% negative/rather negative view.

Antonis Samaras (New Democracy): 31,4% positive/rather positive view and 66% negative/rather negative view.

Giorgos Karatzaferis (LAOS): 27,5% positive/rather positive view and 70,5% negative/rather negative view.

Aleka Papariga (Communist Party): 24,3% positive/rather positive view and 72,6% negative/rather negative view.

Dora Bakoyannis (Democratic Alliance): 19% positive/rather positive view and 78,5% negative/rather negative view.

George Papandreou (PASOK): 15,6% positive/rather positive view and 83,7% negative/rather negative view.

The run-up to the Greek economic crisis (Part 1)

Last week I read one of the most interesting articles in the past months. It was written by journalist Pavlos Papadopoulos for the popular Sunday newspaper To Vima (16/10/2011). I decided to translate it for anyone who is interested in the backstage political activity during the first months of the Greek economic crisis. I have re-phrased some parts in order to facilitate the article’s understanding and, of course, to make it easier for my mediocre translating skills. I also decided to split the 3.000+ words article in four  parts so that it makes it easier to read online. The next parts will be translated and published during the week.

Apart from the journalistic interest, this article can prove to be useful in order to understand the suspiciousness of the Greek public against the current administration and the reasons why so many people react by protesting in the streets. Simply, try to imagine what kind of trust would you show to your government if you knew that your current state of misery is due to the amateur handling of extremely crucial issues. It is also interesting to notice how some of the decisions were not taken under the motivation of doing the right thing for Greece but were rather the results of small-party political machinations.

So here’s the first part of the article.

“We were like prostitutes after their first time” a top government official confessed in his attempt to describe the Cabinet member’s psychological situation during their meeting to sign the Memorandum, on the 5th of May 2010. “We were looking at each other and we were all pale” he says. “We felt very ashamed since we couldn’t believe that we, PASOK, led Greece to the IMF, having chopped the salaries and the pensions”. And then he concludes “Since then we have been completely prostituted. We’ve done the same things over and over again without feeling any shame”. Almost all PASOK politicians admit in private that the Memorandum, despite its provision of some necessary reforms, is synonymous at the same time with the sentencing of the economy to a prolonged depression and with the mortgaging of the country to its lenders. However they recognize that it was the last choice in order to avoid bankruptcy and to secure the savings and the pensions, especially since the government had previously failed to implement the prior solutions.

“The Memorandum was hastily written by us and the troika” admits a high-ranking government official who participated in the (so-called) negotiations. “We had no idea of what we were writing and the troika experts were equally confused, working under great pressure from the European Commission and the IMF”. According to first hand accounts, the slightest preparation hasn’t been made and simply, on the last moment, they isolated part from older IMF Memorandums as those with Turkey, Mexico or Hungary and they would hurriedly adapt them to form the Greek Memorandum. “It’s a bad compilation, a Frankestein-styled Memorandum” says a Minister who admitted that he had less than three hours to read, understand, evaluate and approve the part of the agreement which would commit his Ministry for the next four years.


Only the first two chapters of the Memorandum are purely Greek. They consist the “legal introduction” which was written by professors Evangelos Venizelos and Haris Paboukis in an office at the fifth floor of the Ministry of Development, in Mesogion Avenue.  A lot of government officials found refuge in that 10 years old building, the design of which reminds the optimism of the European Monetary Union’s era. The centre of Athens was impassable because of the tear gas and the riots which concluded that afternoon in the assassination of three young people at the Marfin Bank Stadiou Street branch.

“We’ll become like Argentina. They will enter and they will kill us” Theodoros Pangalos shouted when he was informed of the three bank employees’ death. He was at the Parliament and the MPs next to him who heard him got afraid that the mob will come inside and lynch them. But they haven’t taken into account Aleka Papariga. The General Secretary of the Greek Communist Party, an always suspicious and proactive woman, has given strict orders to the safeguarding team of PAME (the Communist trade union). The strapping communists, instead of invading the former Palace (i.e. the Greek Parliament), obeyed and sheltered it by standing in the way of a united crowd of extreme leftists and parastatal protestors who were trying to break through the police collar at the Monument of the Unknown Soldier. Once more, the Greek Communist Part had saved the bourgeois democracy.

End of Part 1 – To read Part 2 click here.