THE INCLUSION of the Popular Orthodox Rally (Laos) - Greece’s far-right party - in the new coalition government provoked fierce reactions from rights groups and politicians at home and abroad.
A group that fights anti-Semitism worldwide was one of the first to send a critical letter to the new prime minister, Lucas Papademos. The New York-based Anti-Defamation League called on Papademos to “firmly and unequivocally condemn anti-Semitism” because the inclusion of Laos in the government is “deeply troubling”, given the history of anti-Semitic statements by its leader, Yiorgos Karatzaferis.
Laos currently has 16 seats in the 300-seat parliament. It also has one government minister, as well as two alternative ministers and two deputy ministers in the new government. It is the first time since 1974 that a far-right party is sharing power in the government.
The German tabloid Bild quoted Dieter Grauman, chairman of the Central Council of Jews in Germany. “It is very regrettable that this party is participating in the Greek cabinet. I think it will be difficult for any German government to negotiate with the Greek government.”
At home, harsh criticism came from leftist MPs and even from within Pasok. The party’s former justice minister, Haris Kastanidis, sent a letter to parliament speaker Filippos Petsalnikos explaining why he cannot support the decision to include Laos in the new government. He described the decision as a “historic mistake”.
Leftist Syriza leader Alexis Tsipras lashed out at Laos, saying that he could never accept any lesson in democracy from someone sympathetic to Ioannis Metaxas, the Greek dictator (1936-1941) who banned political parties, prohibited strikes and introduced widespread censorship of the media.
Greek Communist leader Aleka Papariga also voiced her concern. “This is not just a far-right party,” she told parliament on November 15. “Yes, it’s a parliamentary party, but so were Metaxas and Mussolini. Let’s not forget that Francois Mitterrand created Jean-Marie Le Pen. Do we really need a far-right party in the system today?”
The Ecologists-Green party described it as a “serious blow to society [and] democracy”. Christos Polyzogopoulos, leader of Greece’s Economic and Social Council (OKE) and former trade unionist, also criticised the decision. He said it is a “huge political impropriety, especially for Mr Papandreou”. He also warned it will have “tragic consequences for the future”.
In the European Parliament, Martin Schulz, the chair of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats group and Daniel Cohn-Bendit, a member of the Greens group, criticised the decision to include Laos in the new coalition government. Cohn-Bendit said it is “neither a good thing, nor useful”.