Protests erupt as Greek PM seeks rebound from COVID-19 response, summer wildfires

Thousands of police were deployed in Greece’s second city Thessaloniki Saturday ahead of protests during a policy speech by Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, who seeks to repair political damage from summer wildfires.

Halfway through his four-year term, Mitsotakis has seen his conservative party’s ratings flag after wildfires destroyed over 100,000 hectares of forest, farmland, and crops around the country.

Unions on Saturday will demonstrate against recent laws on overtime and strikes, and over-expected price hikes later this year. Over 5,000 police have been deployed in the city in response.

The prime minister is expected to announce measures targeting growth, the state ANA agency said Saturday.

The New Democracy party’s lead over the leftist Syriza party fell to 10.1 percent in August from between 12.8 and 16.5 percent in July.

The latest poll, in Ta Nea daily, found nearly 55 percent of respondents also disagreed with the government’s policies on tackling the Covid-19 pandemic.

Over 14,000 people in Greece have died from causes related to the pandemic. Over half of the country’s 11 million residents have been fully vaccinated.

Mitsotakis has also been criticized for a recent reshuffle in which he entrusted the health ministry to a former far-right lawyer who has expressed strongly anti-migrant views.

Upon becoming minister, Thanos Plevris — the son of a prominent Greek Holocaust denier — rejected having any “anti-Semitic sentiments”.

Alongside the ministers for interior and development, Plevris is now the third cabinet member appointed by Mitsotakis among defectors from the far-right Laos party in 2012.

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