Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras travelled to the northern port city of Thessaloniki on Friday for a meeting with the city's mayor, Yannis Boutaris, days after the latter was kicked and punched by at least half a dozen people attending an outdoor protest rally.
While in Thessaloniki, Tsipras also took the opportunity to comment on ongoing talks regarding the fYRoM "name issue" between Athens and Skopje, as well as resurgent media speculation over the prospect of snap elections in the country.
In beginning his comments before waiting cameras at Thessaloniki's town hall, Tsipras first referred to an attempt to kill Boutaris, as he said, while also promising that his leftist SYRIZA party will back the 76-year-old mayor if he chooses to vie for re-election.
Boutaris was attacked as he tried to attend a rally commemorating the Pontian Greek genocide, annually held on May 19. "Pontian" refers to the Pontus region of northeast Asia Minor, along the southeast shores of the Black Sea, where ethnic Greeks known as Pontians lived for centuries until the early 20th century.
Tsipras also commented on the negotiations between his government and the Zaev government in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (fYRoM), saying that they (in fYRoM) "have been called Macedonia for 70 years ... We are not going to give something, as some foolish people are saying; we going to get what others gave up".
Asked about the prospect of early elections - ahead of the second half of 2019 - Tsipras said his government has another year in office after an end of the coming bailout (August 2018), and that he would be "foolish not to be prime minister of a country that decides for itself".
Tsipras and his hard left SYRIZA party continue to trail main opposition New Democracy (ND) party in all mainstream opinion polls over the past year or so, with a number of polls showing a double-digit percentage point lead for the center-right formation.