Wary stance on farm­ers

Gov’t us­ing wait-and-see tac­tics as Com­mu­nist Party ac­tively backs pro­test­ers

Kathimerini English - - Front Page -

As thou­sands of farm­ers gath­ered at key road junc­tions around the coun­try yes­ter­day, push­ing for con­ces­sions from a new tax bill, Prime Min­is­ter An­to­nis Sa­ma­ras chaired a meet­ing with key min­is­ters in a bid to stop the bur­geon­ing protest from be­com­ing a new point of con­flict be­tween the government and so­ci­ety.

The grow­ing pres­ence of protest­ing farm­ers – and their trac­tors – at ma­jor junc­tions such as the one at Nikaia on the Athens-Thes­sa­loniki na­tional high­way was re­port­edly the fo­cus of talks be­tween Sa­ma­ras, Agri­cul­tural Devel­op­ment Min­is­ter Athanas­sios Tsaf­taris and State Min­is­ter Dim­itris Stama­tis. The ma­jor­ity of the farm­ers in­volved in the cur­rent block­ades are af­fil­i­ated with the Com­mu­nist Party (KKE) though a grow­ing num­ber of pro­test­ers are aligned with con­ser­va­tive New Democ­racy.

Sources told Kathimerini that the government is keen to nip the protests in the bud. But nei­ther Sa­ma­ras nor his min­is­ters have taken any con­certed ac­tion to dif­fuse the ten­sion, a fact which is said to have puz­zled some government of­fi­cials.

The out­come of the cur­rent dead­lock will de­pend on a se­ries of fac­tors, sources told Kathimerini, in­clud­ing the re­ac­tion by KKE’s lead­er­ship and cadres to the ar­rest of 35 mem­bers of the KKE-af­fil­i­ated la­bor union PAME who are ac­cused of raid­ing and van­dal­iz­ing the of­fice of La­bor Min­is­ter Yan­nis Vrout­sis ear­lier this week. The union­ists’ trial was put off un­til Fe­bru­ary 12 as hun­dreds of sup­port­ers gath­ered out­side the cap­i­tal’s court com­plex in Evelpi­don to ex­press sol­i­dar­ity with the de­fen­dants.

Government of­fi­cials re­port­edly want to stick to a law en­force­ment drive but with­out pro­vok­ing more in­tense protests from KKE.

Farm­ers are not Sa­ma­ras’s only con­cern. Sea­men are to con­tinue with a 48-hour walk­out to­day, protest­ing a new plan for coastal ship­ping which, pro­test­ers fear, will re­sult in job losses.

Mean­while, more than two weeks of dis­rup­tion in the pub­lic trans­port sec­tor comes to an end to­day as staff protest­ing wage cuts re­turn to work.

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