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Rena Dourou: The vanishing lady that sued herself

Journalists covering politics knew Rena Dourou as an ambitious, dynamic upwardly mobile, young politician, long before she was elected to parliament with SYRIZA in 2012.

She came into the public eye after her election, and especially after Alexis Tsipras chose her to head the party's ticket for governor of the region of Attica. It was the time the SYRIZA was using anti-memorandum rhetoric that would vault it from a fringe party to the helm of Greece. Rena Dourou also capitalized on such sentiments, sweeping the polls and landing in the seat of the country's most populous and problematic region, that includes the country's capital, Athens.

Her pre-election platform was full of criticism of past administrations, and incumbent Yiannis Sgouros, sprinkled with lofty, if nebulous, plans for righting the accumulated wrongs of decades in a atter of a few months. Characteristically, back then, she purported that fixing the course of blocked stream beds, a perennial problem in over-urbanized Attica, within a matter of six months.

It was a position that offered many advantages for a young politician. There she could stay away from the wear and tear of everyday political strife that had divided politicians, parties, and citizens into pro- and anti- memorandum factions.

On election night, those of us who saw her, witnessed a change. The fiesty, conveveant, and approachable Rena, was almost instanteously transformed into an unapproachableimperious, queenly figure that triumphantly faced cameras alone basking in her own glory. Her victory, also provided a springboard for her party's assault on the center of political power, as she was the first major success of SYRIZA. Many of her adherents were quick to wish her further successes, signalling that her ambitions went far beyond the regional seat.

Expectations were high, but were never realized. After SYRIZA's ascent to power, and with the country's situation worsening exponentially under the new governemnt, Ms Dourou quietly slipped from the limelight. By 2017, the public was under tremendous pressure and was in no mood to tolerate inaction and inability. Duriing her tenure as governor Ms Dourou was consistently and conspicuously absent. She wasn't there when wildfies struck, when the coasts were polluted by oil spill, or now when floods cliamed 16 lives.

She usually appeared too late and only after being criticized by mainstream and social media. Crises came and went and there was no forthcoming crisis management, quick reflexes,  or even some show of intent. As one journalist describewd it "she remained attached to the old communications tactic that dictated to politicians 'when in a tough spot, hide to avoid disaster."

She became significant through her absence,as journalists, expressing public perception clamored for her to do, or at leat, to say something. Whenever she appeared, as now after the floods, her appearances were curt and heaviloy laced with blame for predecessors, the ills of the system, and reassurances that the regional government was doing whatever it could, something that everyone took with a grain of salt.

During the summer fires that hit East Attica, she appeared before the cameras, 48 hours after the event, not to inform on what was happening, but rather to demand silence, on press releases, facebook posts, broadcasts, out of respect for those suffering and the firefighters, as she said. And that was it. She vanished, once again, lost in the byzantine corridors of her own bureaucratic kingdom.

This time, she proceeded with a gesture deserving some sort of prize, if one is given for theater of the absurd. She went to the prosecutor and set charges against all responsible for the devastation caused by the floods. However, as everyone knows, it is ultimately the region is the body responsible for ensuring the safety of citizens through maintainace of civil protection infrastructure. Essentially she is sueing herself.

In front of the cameras she takes on the semblance of a gravitous and very learned person, far above the hoi polloi whom she deems too lowly to inform. However, Ms Dourou, will seek reelection at some point, and if she runs for her current post or for parliament in a district which is now under her jurisdiction her exit from the political scene may be assured, at least temporarily.