Greek Prime Minister: Undoing His Father's Legacy George Papandreou is the third member of his family to serve as prime minister of Greece. But his critics say he is betraying the work of his father, who built up the Greek welfare state.
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Greek Prime Minister: Undoing His Father's Legacy

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Greek Prime Minister: Undoing His Father's Legacy

Greek Prime Minister: Undoing His Father's Legacy

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GUY RAZ, Host:

But as NPR's Sylvia Poggioli reports from Athens, he's now trying to dismantle the generous welfare state his father created.

(SOUNDBITE OF PROTESTERS)

SYLVIA POGGIOLI: But the prime minister is unfazed.

GEORGE PAPANDREOU: Many ask me: But do you have the support? My first answer is that is not my problem. I have said I am here to work for my country, save the country, change the country, whether I am re-elected or not is not my problem.

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

POGGIOLI: Journalist and publisher George Kirtsos knew Papandreou when they were both college students in the U.S. This is how Kirtsos describes the father.

GEORGE KIRTSOS: Andreas Papandreou was a firebrand socialist - big spender, charismatic politician. Let's say a very capable orator.

POGGIOLI: The son, Kirtsos says, couldn't be more different.

KIRTSOS: Okay, he's a nice guy - a liberal, in the American sense of the word. Open-minded, but this doesn't make him effective in, let's say, the Byzantine environment of Greek politics.

POGGIOLI: Sociologist Despina Papadopoulou says big-spending PASOK produced a massive middle-class that kept the party in power for almost 20 of the last 30 years. Now, with draconian austerity measures, she says, George Papandreou is undoing his father's legacy.

DESPINA PAPADOPOULOU: (Through Translator) And now the paradox is that the same ruling party that is destroying the middle class, is destroying the social forces that helped it access to power and this is our real crisis.

POGGIOLI: Konstantinos Koutsodimos, vice president of a powerful union, wonders whether George, the son, has an Oedipus complex.

KONSTANTINOS KOUTSODIMOS: (Through Translator) This is a political patricide. For us, Papandreou's behavior and policy are a complete betrayal. Before being elected, he promised that he would increase the social welfare state. He said he would increase wages. And in just two months after his election he reversed everything. He forgot all his promises.

POGGIOLI: Sylvia Poggioli, NPR News, Athens.

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