PM Tsipras Defends Minister’s Outburst Against Wheelchair-Bound Opponent



Stelios Kymbouropoulos is a New Democracy Party candidate for the European elections

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras on Tuesday defended his minister Pavlos Polakis, who had earlier launched a crude verbal attack on social media against an opposition politician who uses a wheelchair.

Polakis accused the 34-year-old New Democracy candidate Stelios Kymbouropoulos, who was diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy as a child, of abusing equal hiring laws in order to be appointed to the Greek national health service. The minister had made his remarks in a Facebook post on Monday.

Opposition politicians were united in condemning Polakis, and the New Democracy Party has even filed a no-confidence motion against the minister. However, Tsipras defended Polakis, saying that he would turn the no-confidence vote for his minister into a vote of confidence for his government.

“I thought there would be some limit to the venality; I was wrong,” New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis wrote on Twitter on Tuesday morning, responding to Polakis’ comments.

“Shame on you, Mr. Tsipras, for keeping the unscrupulous Polakis in your government,” the conservative chief added, addressing the prime minister.

Fofi Genimmata, leader of the Movement for Change Party, expressed no surprise at Tsipras’ support for Polakis.

“We know that he [Polakis] expresses [Tsipras] completely. Only fascists can throw so much poison against a young man in a wheelchair,” Genimmata stated.

Kymbouropoulos rose to prominence at the age of 14 for becoming the first honor student using a wheelchair to carry the Greek flag in the annual school parade for the October 28 national holiday.

He went on to graduate from the Athens School of Medicine with honors in 2012 and was appointed as a psychiatric attendant at Attica General Hospital in 2016.