Severe backlash from junior Cabinet member's derogatory comments against rival football fans; resignation imminent

Sunday, 14 January 2018 15:49
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The latest, and utterly abrupt, political "tempest" to bedevil the shaky leftist-rightist Greek government coalition came over the weekend with an outlandish statement by a junior Cabinet member, who used offensive language to refer fans of two popular football teams in the country.

Costas Zouraris, a controversial MP with the right-wing Independent Greeks (AN.EL) party who was best-known - before being elected to Parliament - as a regular panelist on current affairs programs aired on Greece's more obscure television stations, used a sexually-oriented phrase to belittle fans of the Olympiacos Piraeus club, and an equally offensive term for Thessaloniki-based Aris.

Zouraris, who is elected from the northern city of Thessaloniki and holds a tenured professorship at a university there, is a well-known fan of PAOK, the largest and most popular club in Thessaloniki and northern Greece.

In the current Tsipras government, Zouraris holds a minor Cabinet position as deputy education minister with a portfolio mainly focusing on education issues for expatriate Greeks.

The outburst is characteristic for Zouraris, who often spurts out controversial statements on camera in ancient Greek.

According to press reports on Sunday, he has already tendered his resignation to Greek PM Alexis Tsipras.

Earlier, sharp criticism came from within his own small rightist-populist party.

"It's either him or me," was the way another AN.EL deputy, Dimitris Kammenos, reacted. Representatives of the party from Thessaloniki also issued angry statements.

Equally scathing were reactions by the political opposition and the two clubs who were the targets of Zouraris' derogatory comments.

The nine AN.EL deputies in Greece's 300-MP parliament prop up the current "strange bedfellows" coalition, as leftist SYRIZA party falls short of the 150+1 deputies needed to form a one-party government.

Nevertheless, both parties - dominant SYRIZA and the small Independent Greeks (AN.EL) - are utterly reluctant to cause a government collapse and a snap election, given that the former trails center-right New Democracy (ND) by double-digit percentage points in all mainstream opinion polls, while the latter appears, according to the same polls, unlikely to return to Parliament.




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