A quip by the general secretary of the Communist Party (KKE) on Thursday referring to “sugar daddies”, during Parliament debate over a draft bill foreseeing the recognition of non-state universities in the country, generated a firestorm of reactions in its wake.

KKE general secretary Dimitris Koutsoumbas used the distinctly “bourgeois” phrase in an attempt to disparage what he described as the “Scandinavian” model entailing tuition for university studies, claiming that many co-eds seek “sugar daddies” to pay college costs. A later “clarification” by another KKE deputy, Nikos Karathanasopoulos, attempting to ameliorate the reactions merely added “fuel to the fire”, as he referred to “sugar babies” seeking “sugar daddies”.

Koutsoumbas’ comment was condemned by all the other political parties and skewered on social media.

In an immediate reaction from Parliament’s podium after the KKE deputy’s address, ruling New Democracy (ND) party MP and former minister Stelios Petsas said “what you’re doing is shameful, retract it now. You are in Greece in 2024, you’re not in any of the former Soviet republics of the 1980s.”

In her intervention, Deputy Education Minister Zeta Makri underlined that “as a woman, I am very sad. This was an unacceptable and sexist statement. It saddens me that it was repeated, and that you persist. Let’s assume you had good intentions, admit to making an unfortunate statement and apologize.”

The allusion by the hardline communist party’s general secretary apparently stemmed from previous media reports circulated over the Internet claiming dating platforms that aim to “connect” female college students with wealthier older men willing to provide “financial and material support”.