Sharp reaction to appointment of top minister's father as president of recently nationalized bus company

Thursday, 10 August 2017 19:23

The surprise appointment of a top minister's retired father as the head of the recently nationalized Thessaloniki area's urban bus company stirred more summertime opprobrium on the part of the opposition this week, as well as a stinging rebuke by the former Parliament president.

"Congratulations to the Minister of ... Space and Sleaze Nikos Pappas and his partner Christos Spirtzis (the relevant minister) for the appointment of his daddy (the elder Pappas) to OASTh," was the prickly Tweet by outspoken Zoe Konstantopoulou, the six-month Parliament president under a SYRIZA-led coalition government in 2015.

She left SYRIZA in protest after it signed and delivered the third bailout memorandum in the summer of 2015, founding her own far-left, anti-austerity party, but failing to enter Parliament in the September 2015 snap election.

Konstantopoulou was referring to the appointment of Stelios Pappas as the president of the under-liquidation Thessaloniki Urban Transport Organisation, known by its Greek-language abbreviation of OASTh. The latter was nationalized by the leftist-rightist coalition government last month.

The company, which for decades relied on state subsidies while operating as a private sector mass transit monopoly in Greece's second largest city, is tens of millions of euros in the red, including owing back wages to employees.

In defending his choice, Transport Minister Christos Spirtzis - who is elected from the Thessaloniki area - later stated that "we're not going to play around with OASTh's liquidation, and this is a central theme... That's why a historic (leftist) cadre with significant experience in economics takes the helm."

In a later reaction, main opposition New Democracy (ND) party said it was "obvious" that the minister's father was chosen "in a draw by Mr. Spirtzis", a derisive quip linked with another decision by the government last week to select flag-bearers for primary school parades through a lottery-style drawing, instead of continuing the tradition of giving the top pupil, academically, the honor.

ND's press office director, Makarios Lazaridis, in fact, took to Facebook to repost a past Tweet by current Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, where the latter deplores nepotism in Greece.

"...The truth is that this isn't nepotism, but a regime," Lazaridis said, charging that the development comes days after the state took over the troubled company.

In an earlier reply, the relevant transport ministry said ND's comments were "vile" and that the elder Pappas, a pensioner, will serve as the now state-run company's top executive without pay.