What should a minister’s wife do in Greece?

September 11, 2008

The heir to one of Greece’s most distinguished political families, Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis, helped his conservative New Democracy party sweep to power in 2004 by convincing Greeks tired of decades of socialist graft that he would clean up Greek politics.

But public discontent with a new set of scandals and a slowing economy has hit the popularity of his government and party. 

Karamanlis and Roussopoulos (R) leave the presidential palace after Karamanlis received a mandate to form a government on March 8, 2004One of the many problems Karamanlis faces is over the role played by the wife of one of his closest aides, Minister of State Theodoros Roussopoulos, who is also the minister dealing with the press.

His wife, Mara Zacharea, is a journalist who appears on television as a news commentator and also co-owns a media company. 

Petros Tatoulis, a New Democracy party rebel, has criticised the arrangement, describing it in his blog http://tatoulis.blogspot.com/ as an “unprecedented conflict of interest”. He compares the situation with that of couples in other countries where one of the two has given up a job to avoid any hint of impropriety.

The liberal press and opposition parties have been just as tough in their condemnations.

The minister and his wife hit back, saying they were victims of a political war. They took the moral high ground, pointing out that questioning her role was anachronistic and showed opposition parties believed women in the 21st century should be limited to playing second fiddle to their husbands.

During his annual appearance in the northern Greek city of Thessaloniki this weekend, Karamanlis faced an unprecedented barrage of questions about alleged misconduct in party ranks – ranging from allegations about hiding of wealth in an off-shore company to accusations about kickbacks for island sailing contracts.

Asked about Roussopoulos, Karamanlis echoed his minister’s own defence: “Such views are anachronistic, if not medieval, about the role of women in modern society.” Protesters of leftwing organizations clash during an anti-government rally outside the International trade fair in Thessaloniki, some 520km (323 miles) north of Athens, September 6, 2008. Greek police fired teargas on Saturday at protesters during demonstrations against the conservative government’s economic policies. REUTERS/Vasillis Ververidis (GREECE)

An opinion poll showed 56 percent of those asked were not convinced by his answer. The press appeared equally sceptical, with most liberal dailies saying that with only 152 deputies in the 300-seat house, Karamanlis could
hardly afford to crack the whip. 

In a European Union country where women make up only about 16 percent of parliament but more than 60 percent of the unemployed, the debate drew ironic comments.

“The one thing for which I loudly applaud the minister, is that he has finally forced New Democracy to talk about feminism,” wrote blogger Christos Loutradis on Press-gr http://press-gr.blogspot.com/.


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I would like to comment on the picture bottom right,since I was actively involved on this episode.
My concerns were ideological as well as practical,firstly, since the left-wing party members of PA.M.E. -as any party members- are renowned conformists and their main concern is to protect by force,if nessecary, an unhealthy stagnancy, and secondly they were trying to restrain the anarchists movement with the help of the close-by luring police force eager to finish us off.

Posted by Adamantios Tsakaludis | Report as abusive

Greece will never change. The only way Greece will change is if the European Union takes more control of Greece’s domestic politics, which are riddled beyond belief with corruption. Just as the Greece national football team was led to victory only by a foreigner, the same applies for Greece as a country. Only an outsider could fix this horrible mess.

Posted by Stavros | Report as abusive

The story just covers the tip of the iceberg. It may be worth it invesigating it a little further.

Posted by Alderman | Report as abusive

The story misses the funniest twist. Tatoulis and others actually demanded that Minister Rousopoulos resign, since his wife Zacharea appears to be the family’s principal breadwinner. A cunning proposal, since everyone and their dog knows that Zacharea’s sole media business credentials is her husband’s political clout. By the way Minister Rousopoulos is the official responsible for handing out state and quango advertising to newspapers and television. Availability of such advertising often means the difference between viability and bankruptcy for minor newspapers and TV channels. It is a system that reeks of corruption and patronage, expertly run by Rousopoulos.

Posted by speakerL | Report as abusive

The tip of the iceberg Voulgaraki’s resignation. Rousopoulos case is much more interesting. All these days Voulgarakis was in front of the line to protect Rousopoulos from the media. Now what will happen…

Posted by John Black | Report as abusive

In Greece we have remarkable ways of keeping the corrupt, the uneducated, the merit-less in positions of power. The line-up of both major parties (just to mention the primary players) include dozens of people whom you would not trust even with taking your dirty laundry to the cleaner’s. In addition, those chosen for cabinet rank are indeed given the portfolio not because of a proven record of professional success, but almost always according to purely micro-partisan criteria that place merit and personal integrity at the very bottom of the priorities list. Hence the pathetic record of Greek governments and the abundant evidence of the Greek political system having failed on all major counts. The Roussopoulos/Zacharea example is only the latest twist in a story that has been developing for decades — and promises more of the same pitiful action as we move into the future.

Posted by Demosthenes | Report as abusive

I agree with the man above that Greece will never change.
As long as they have the power they will do whatever they like to do.Who is asking people espesially their fans.no one cares about the working people the expensive prices.The only thing they care is how to be richers.
I am not pround of being Greek any more.
what a pity

Posted by george delikaris | Report as abusive

Years ago I was introduced to an aspiring journalist – a young 20-something – writing up her thesis in the UK…was it at the “Beeb”? Honstestly I can’t remember…what I do remember was that she offered me a handsome sum of money to render her thesis in English,for it had originally been written in Greek…
the poor little thing was studying in the UK but her
English was just not up to it.But her Greek wasn’t either…(the whole thing read like a high school student’s private diaries on the meetings she’s had
with some famous people…and that was it…)
I must give her credit though for the nice coffee sessions we had at the time and her sharpish comments on several people she’s hanging out with now….
Can you guess who I am talking about?

Posted by konst dim | Report as abusive

According to the opposition PASOK party New Democracy has managed to get itself embroiled in 45 scandals in 54 months. Even allowing for a little political inflation on the part of Andreas Papandreou the current government has done a wonderful job of shooting itself in the foot…repeatedly.

The latest Vatopedi scandal has revealed a whole network of dodgy deals involving high ranking government members.

Posted by Craig Wherlock | Report as abusive

BTW I was also at the rally shown in the picture above. Interesting that you choose to show the 30 seconds of violence during the four hour demo.

Actually, it was between the supporters of KKE(the official communist party) and the anti-authoritarian/anarchist section of the march.

Posted by Craig Wherlock | Report as abusive