In Greek Election Campaign, Anger Trumps Civility This weekend, Greece holds what is expected to be the most fractious parliamentary elections in decades. Voters are so angry they're attacking lawmakers with eggs, yogurt and obscenities. Greeks blame politicians for causing the debt crisis by stealing public money and financial mismanagement.
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In Greek Election Campaign, Anger Trumps Civility

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In Greek Election Campaign, Anger Trumps Civility

In Greek Election Campaign, Anger Trumps Civility

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From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Audie Cornish.


And I'm Robert Siegel. This Sunday, Greece holds its first elections since the financial crisis toppled the government and Greeks are angry at their politicians. As Joanna Kakissis reports, some people are even attacking lawmakers.

JOANNA KAKISSIS, BYLINE: On the Aegean island of Rhodes recently, some politicians went to a parade. During better times, they waved at smiling schoolchildren singing the national anthem. This year, they ran from an angry mob pelting them with cartons of yogurt. Local TV footage shows the crowd breaking through security barriers and screaming, traitors.

It's become a familiar scene in post-austerity Greece. Two parties have run the country for the last 30 years - Center-left PASOK and center-right New Democracy. Greeks blame them for accepting billions in bailout loans in exchange for painful austerity measures that have stalled the economy.


KAKISSIS: It Athens, demonstrators surround Parliament and shout, thieves. People are so frustrated, they're even heckling politicians who opposed the bailout. It's open season on all incumbents as parliamentary deputy, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, who represents Athens. He's running for reelection with New Democracy.

KYRIAKOS MITSOTAKIS: Oh, it is extremely different from the last campaign two years ago. People are very angry and I think rightly so. They feel let down by politicians, especially those who represent the two major parties. At the same time, there is also a lot of concern about the future of the country.

KAKISSIS: Voters want answers, so journalist Constantinos Bogdanos helped organize a town hall meeting at an arty bar in central Athens. About 100 voters came to quiz candidates from 10 parties.

CONSTANTINOS BOGDANOS: Now, when it comes to politicians - OK, egg throwing is not the worst thing in the world, but it's not going to take us anywhere. As long as we realize that and start voting as responsible citizens and discussing as responsible citizens, I think we're going to make it.

KAKISSIS: But it wasn't long before voters complained that politicians weren't answering questions. And then, after a middle-aged woman talked about lynching, the politicians accused the voters of being hostile.

Gabriela Triantifylis, a 32-year-old theater manager, walked out looking shell shocked.

GABRIELA TRIANTIFYLIS: I really thought that it could be more civil than this. I never expected to experience such tension and such distress in this building. People simply could not listen to each other.

KAKISSIS: One of the politicians, Giorgos Charalambopoulos, left the talk after the lynching comment. He spent the rest of the evening on the bar's balcony, smoking a cigarette and looking wistfully at the Acropolis.

GIORGOS CHARALAMBOPOULOS: When you say, why don't you hang somebody, and we let that develop, that's bad for democracy and, if we let that, they will hang not only guilty people, but innocent people. So we're not talking about that. Absolutely, I'm not part of that bargain.

KAKISSIS: Charalambopoulos is a parliamentary deputy in PASTOK, the party many Greeks blame for austerity. He's hoping to win reelection in his Athens district and he also has a bodyguard, a young policeman named Lazarus. These days, he says, you can't be too careful.

For NPR News, I'm Joanna Kakissis in Athens.

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