Sunday, 19 December 2010

George Papandreou Risks Sparking Class War Over Austerity Cuts

THE GUARDIAN: A mob attack on a politician in broad daylight has highlighted how desperate Greeks are becoming about political decisions imposed on them

Riot police clash with protesters in September outside the Thessaloniki International Fair where the Greek prime minister, George Papandreou, was delivering a keynote speech. Photograph: The Guardian

Stung by fury on the streets, criticism within his own party and rising poverty, the Greek prime minister, George Papandreou, addressed an emergency session of his socialist MPs yesterday as parliament prepared to debate one of the toughest budgets in the near-bankrupt nation's modern history.

Amid mounting hostility over austerity measures that last week sparked some of the ugliest scenes of violence since the eruption of Europe's debt-crisis in Athens, he appealed for calm in navigating what he has increasingly come to call a "state of war".

"These are critical times for Greece," said Kostas Panagopoulos, a political analyst. "It is going through its worst period in 30 years."

An attack in broad daylight on Kostas Hadzidakis, a minister in the former conservative government, has highlighted fears that Greeks are at a tipping point. He was set upon as he walked through Athens during one of the capital's biggest ever anti-austerity demonstrations. Protesters were seen shouting "thieves, thieves" and "let the parliament burn" as they punched him in the face, threw stones at him and tried to attack him with sticks. >>> Helena Smith | Sunday, December 19, 2010