October 29, 2011 · 0 Comments
weather.info/home/index.cfm?city=Athens,%20Greece&latlon=37.97945,23.71622&u=c”>Athens, Greece — In her tiny office, Hara Kefalidou rolled her eyes remembering the days just after her letter was published in the conservative daily Kathimerini.
In that letter, Kefalidou, a newly elected member of Parliament, called on her fellow legislators to give up some of their vaunted perks, including free cars, the $425 fee for attending committee meetings and double pensions.
It was not an idea they immediately embraced. She soon found herself being lectured by party leaders about her lack of judgment.
“I was so alone,” she said. “People that I really admired called and said in private in a paternalistic way: ‘OK, you said what you had to say. Now move on.’”
The letter, and her eventual decision to give up some of her own perks, catapulted Kefalidou into the headlines. Some praised her for her boldness. But it also has unleashed a torrent of criticism from fellow politicians who have called her a hypocrite.
Kefalidou, 46 and five months pregnant with her first child, says it just seemed obvious to her that lawmakers needed to make sacrifices, too. Her country was near bankruptcy and the government was asking Greek citizens to pay higher taxes, even as their wages, benefits and pensions were being cut.
Some of the privileges Kefalidou dragged into the spotlight seemed to defy common sense. A lawmaker who also is a physician and fails to be re-elected is entitled to a job running a hospital — even if he has never run so much as a clinic before, she said.
And was it right, she asked, that members of Parliament should be entitled to two pensions: one attached to their profession and another after they have served just two terms in the legislature?
Kefalidou, a member of the governing Pasok party, commutes between weather.info/home/index.cfm?city=Athens,%20Greece&latlon=37.97945,23.71622&u=c”>Athens, where her husband works, and Drama, where she lives with her parents. She encourages young people from Drama to go back to farming because manufacturing jobs are gone.
By Emma Brown