What should a minister’s wife do in Greece?
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.
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.”
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/.