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The Greek Right Wing Landscape

The Greek Right Wing Landscape

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Published by justgiving
Only a short Introduction

Source: Kathemerini
Only a short Introduction

Source: Kathemerini

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Published by: justgiving on Mar 04, 2009
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06/16/2009

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By Takis Kambylis - Kathimerini“First of all, I am not a Jew. Can the prime minister say that of himself?Secondly, I am not a communist. Can Mr Karamanlis say that?” asked LAOS leaderGiorgos Karatzaferis, speaking in Corinth on May 28, 2002. “Thirdly, I am not ahomosexual. There aren’t many who can say that,” he added. He was not widelyquoted at the time, but Karatzaferis is given to making remarks of a similarnature, and had in the past made reference to a grandfather of then Prime MinisterCostas Simitis, Aaron Avouris.Anti-Semitism has long been the LAOS leader’s favorite subject. Long before hefounded LAOS, when he was still a parliamentary deputy for the New Democracyparty, he had founded Nea Elpida (New Hope), something between a non-profitfirm and a political party, through which he made overtures to the extreme right-wing Chrysi Avgi (Golden Dawn) and its “worthy fighters.”At some point, however, he was bound to be inconsistent. The revelation that hislist of candidates for the Athens prefectural elections included four knownmembers of Chrysi Avgi annoyed the LAOS leader, who believed at the time that hecould attract votes from the liberal and centrist camps. So Karatzaferis hastenedto state that the same list included two homosexuals and a Gypsy, angering thenleader of Chrysi Avgi, Nikolaos Michaloliakos, who said, “We deeply regret thatmembers of Chrysi Avgi have been offset by Jews, homosexuals and Gypsies.” (TheCentral Jewish Council denied at the time that Greek Jews were included onKaratzaferis’s list of candidates). Karatzaferis’s relations with the neo-fascistbloc and with remnants of the dictatorship have often been characterized by mutualsuspicion. Although he claims to have united them all under one umbrella, firstlyunder New Democracy and later under LAOS, these others have always been seekingwhat only Karatzaferis could give them – a seat in Parliament. And that is what hehas done. The question now is how far he can control them, particularly given thattheir political culture has been formed by the multiplicity and intensity ofpersonal rivalries since the first years after the restoration of democracy.European extreme-right parties owe their short-lived success chiefly to theirrepresentatives’ excellent relationship with the media. Jean Marie Le Pen and CarlLang in France, Giancarlo Fini in Italy, Joerg Haider in Austria and many of theirassociates distinguished themselves as television personalities on political talkshows or at public rallies. Several political analysts have pinpointed this asLAOS’s main problem. With the exception of its leader, the party did not havecadres that could easily cope with a television debate. Now it does, but that isanother major problem for Karatzaferis, since at least three or four of hisdeputies have both the political stature and the experience to hold their own ontelevision. That is precisely the problem – these cadres have become known fortheir neo-fascist or ultra-right activities and that will only strengthen LAOS’sultra-right image. So Karatzaferis wants to depend solely on himself, particularlysince in the recent elections his party was trying to appeal to all sectors of theelectorate. The party’s campaign platform was an example of this. Focusing onexcessive statism (the powerful state is the fetish for all new ultra-rightparties) it presented “leftist” proposals (such as a basic minimum wage but also amaximum wage) and nebulous concepts such as a five-year recruitment of immigrantsinto a “auxiliary military corps.” Karatzaferis has long made it clear that just afew years ago it was his policies that allowed extreme right-wing groups to enterthe heart of the European parliamentary system, embracing not only right-wingersbut dissatisfied leftists who were not part of left-wing parties. However, it willbe difficult to keep up appearances with the likes of Makis Voridis, ThanosPlevris, Adonis Georgiadis and Kyriakos Velopoulos.At LAOS headquarters next to the Panathenaic Stadium on Vassileos Constantinou
 
Avenue, the first clouds have already appeared on the horizon. Leading partycadres found they had not garnered the votes they expected. Worst of all, thesevotes had gone to the “upstarts.” The most typical example was in Piraeus, whereformer Deputy Education Minister Giorgos Kalos lost out (over the history textbookuproar) but the sexologist Vaitsis Apostolatos almost lost to Christos Haritos,publisher of the newspaper of the Elliniko Metopo (Hellenic Front, which had theblessing of Le Pen) and president of the Olympiakos fan club. Haritos joined LAOSalong with Makis Voridis and the other Le Pen followers in 2005. What displeasesLAOS’s old guard most is the number of votes that went directly to Haritos on theballot papers. The same scenario was played out in the first Athens constituency,where lawyer Thanos Plevris, son of the neo-Nazi Costas Plevris (and whorepresented his father in the recent trial over a book by the latter attackingJews and defending Hitler), left some of LAOS’s oldest cadres way behind him inthe voting, including one of Karatzaferis’s deputies Giorgos Georgioiu, as well asVangelis Papadopoulos and Panayiotis Theodorakidis.Thanos Plevris is less compromised by neo-Nazi activities. Within LAOS, there istalk of an “historic compromise” between Plevris senior and Karatzaferis, whoneeded the Plevris name but did not want to assume responsibility for theactivities of the “father” of Greek neo-fascism. Using his son was the goldenmean.Still, LAOS’s biggest problem is expected to be Makis Voridis, not only because ofhis activities to date, but because the Elliniko Metopo that has joined LAOS is atight-knit group with a solid ultra-right ideology and, above all, a betterelectoral record than other LAOS cadres.Voridis has rejected the ultra-right label (allegedly at the prompting of theparty leader). He first appeared in the extreme right shortly before 1980. Fouryears later, he was elected president of the EPEN youth group (the party foundedby ex-dictator George Papadopoulos in 1983 from within Korydallos Prison).However, his career really took off a year later, as current Transport MinisterCostis Hatzidakis will remember only too well. At a stormy meeting on March 15,1985, Voridis was expelled from the law school student union for his ultra-rightactivities. All student political groups voted in favor of the move (Hatzidakiswas head of New Democracy’s student association DAP). A few months later, Voridis,heading a group of EPEN members, laid siege to the law school with axes and ironbars. In 1994, Voridis established the Elliniko Metopo and shortly afterwardpublished the newspaper Ellinikes Grammes. The neo-fascist ENEK group and manyEPEN cadres joined him. His favorite targets are immigrants, chiefly Albanians,particularly since members of the Northern Epirus Liberation Front (MAVI), such asYiannis Yiannakenas, joined the party. Police raided the latter’s home to searchfor weapons, although none were found. A court hearing established a relationshipbetween Yiannakenas and others awaiting trial with regard to MAVI activities inAlbania. Voridis became well known to the ultra-right through his relationshipwith Le Pen. At that time, Greek ultra-right groups were all jockeying for LePen’s favor. It was Voridis who succeeded, defeating Plevris, Ioannis Schinas andChrysi Avgi. Eventually on October 18, 1997, Le Pen recognized Elliniko Metopo. In2005 shortly before Elliniko Metopo joined LAOS, Voridis made a show of strengthby bringing Le Pen to Athens to attend his wedding. Best man at the wedding wasanother French ultra-rightist, the deputy leader of the Front National, Carl Lang.At about the same time, Kyriakos Velopoulos abandoned a local television stationin Pieria for the bright lights of Thessaloniki. The eloquent TV star made acautious beginning. His book “Greece is Bleeding” was nothing like his more recentpublications where he claims that, among other things, that Greeks are from Siriusand that the Maya are descended from the Greeks. Still Velopoulos has managed todo more than all the other new LAOS cadres, that is, to attract the northern Greek

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