Athens Mayor George Kaminis, facing challenges in the May 18 elections, has accused one of his rivals, New Democracy candidate Aris Spiliotopoulos, of being two-faced for opposing a mosque in the city that his ruling party has backed.
Spiliotopoulos at first said there shouldn’t be a mosque in Athens at all although he supported it as part of a plan by his ruling party leader, Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, to have the government pay for building the country’s first official mosque.
After criticism he was an extremist pandering to the likes of the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party that doesn’t want a mosque being built, Spiliotopoulos then changed his stance to say he supports the mosque – as long as it’s not anywhere near the heart of the capital city, but somewhere on the outskirts.
“Spiliotopoulos should have thought about all that before his ministry signed the deal about the mosque’s construction [in Votanikos],” Kaminis told SKAI, accusing the former minister of education and religious affairs of grandstanding and political posturing.
“You can’t so opportunistically change positions overnight,” Kaminis said suggesting that his conservative challenger was seeking to lure votes from the far right. Golden Dawn’s candidate and party spokesman Ilias Kasidiaris, is also running for the job even though he’s been arrested along with the rest of the party’s lawmakers on charges of being a criminal gang.
During his campaign, Spiliotopoulos, also a former tourism minister, has argued that Athens does not need “another pole for illegal immigration” and repeatedly called for a referendum on plans to construct a mosque in the city. It’s common for Greece’s ruling parties to rotate its officials between ministries even if they have no qualifications for the posts.
Spiliotopoulos was also Samaras’ hand-picked candidate to seek the important office, over another New Democracy lawmaker – and former Athens Mayor Nikitas Kaklamanis – who is running anyway, opposing his own party. He has not been ejected nor disciplined by Samaras, who regularly boots deputies who disobey him.
Kaminis, an Independent and professor of Constitutional Law, was backed four years ago by a collection of Leftist parties and narrowly beat Kaklamanis, who had widely been criticized as a do-nothing Mayor. Kaminis was born in New York City.
The government has agreed to build a mosque on land belonging to the Hellenic Navy in Votanikos, near central Athens. Last year, it awarded the 946,000 euro ($1.292 million) construction contract to a private consortium. Work on the building was expected to commence early this year.