The presence of Greek Police Chief Aristeidis Andrikopoulos and Coast Guard Chief Stamatis Raptis at SYRIZA rallies and political events has stirred a political maelstrom as it is a glaring violation of the country’s basic law.
Article 29 (par. 3) of the Greek Constitution states that: “All types of activity for or against a political party are absolutely prohibited for judicial functionaries and all serving in the armed forces and security forces (police).”
Presidential Decree 120 of 2008 specifically stipulates that “any form of public expression for or against political parties and political figures is punishable with “suspension and possible redundancy”.
The Citizen’s Protection (public order) Minister is the one who is charged with the task of conducting a sworn administrative probe and Deputy Minister Katerina Papakosta said that “no one is exempt from police regulations”.
Greek Police officers have been highly politicised along party lines for decades, and that can be explained in part by the fact that most often Greek governments pick police brass based on party affiliation.
Andrikopoulos was appointed in the aftermath of the July, 2018 Mati wildfire which claimed 101 lives and led to the sacking of his predecessor, Konstantinos Tsouvalas.
It is not unlikely that New Democracy leader will quickly replace the top police brass if he is elected prime minister in the 7 July general election.
Flagrant violation of law, police regulation
What distinguishes this case is the fact the very top of the hierarchy of Greek Police and the Coast Guard attended an event in the very centre of Athens that was televised nationwide.
Those in the know say that police brass is up in arms as the presence of the Chief who was not in uniform at the 24 May main election rally of PM Alexis Tsipras is a blow to the prestige of the entire force as there is no precedent for such a blatant indirect endorsement.
‘Overseeing security’ at PM’s rally out of uniform
Andrikopoulos at first said that he attended the rally in Syntagma Square right in front of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in order to personally oversee the implementation of security measures.
He did not elaborate on why that might have been necessary – and indeed in civilian clothing - and critics said that if the police chief actually had wanted to oversee security at the rally he would have gone to the operations centre where he could monitor events and give orders if and when necessary.
It was quickly revealed however that Andrikopoulos had also attended SYRIZA party gatherings in the cities of Agrinio and Xanthi.
He was also present at the Peace and Friendship Stadium in Athens when Tsipras presented SYRIZA’s European Parliament ticket.
Aside from the chief, the fourth ranking officer in Greek Police, Lieutenant General Christos Dragatakis was also with the two chiefs at the 24 May rally and they were photographed chatting with SYRIZA Party Secretary Panos Skourletis
No Coast Guard threat detected in Syntagma
There was obviously no pretext for Coast Guard Chief Raptis’ presence at the 24 May rally in the heart of Athens but he said that he was there accompanying merchant marine minister Fotis Kouvelis, for reasons unknown.