Prime Minister Antonis Samaras’ appointment of far right-winger Makis Voridis as Health Minister in another Cabinet shakeup has riled the Anti-Defamation League (ADL).
The world’s leading organization fighting anti-Semitism was upset that Samaras – whose initial failure to go after the extremist Golden Dawn party also upset Jewish groups – named Voridis to a key post because of his background of being involved with hate groups.
Speaking to Kathimerini, ADL National Director Abraham H. Foxman, who earlier this week met with in Athens, said the choice of Voridis, a lawyer with a far-right background, was at odds with the Greek prime minister’s stance during the crackdown on the country’s neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party.
“We are saddened and concerned by the appointment of Makis Voridis as Health Minister,” he said. “We praised the prime minister’s stance in the case of Golden Dawn but underlined that this appointment undermines his approach.
“Mr. Samaras set high standards in terms of morals and respect for diversity and now he appoints Mr. Voridis. He did not agree with our view but agreed to examine the matter again in the future.”
Foxman said he was now unsure whether Samaras also intends to continue going after Golden Dawn, whose constituent base is a group tht Samaras said he coveted as voters, saying most of them were not neo-Nazis but disgruntled over austerity measures he had to impose on orders of international lenders.
Foxman said he had told Samaras that the US-based organization was uneasy over a recent ADL global survey that found 69 percent of Greeks had anti-Semitic views, the highest percentage in Western Europe.
Foxman said the Greek premier told him he was “shocked” by the ADL findings and that the two men agreed to discuss measures to curb the trend but that it wasn’t enough to keep the Premier from giving Voridis a plum job.
Ironically, Voridis was a member of the ultra-nationalist LAOS and replaced Adonis Georgiadis, also another former LAOS member, as Health Minister although neither has a bit of experience in health care and the system has suffered severe budget cuts and is now among the worst in Europe.
In the early 1980s Voridis led the EPEN (National Political Union) youth group that was founded by ex-dictator Georgios Papadopoulos from inside Korydallos Prison.
Five years later, Voridis was kicked out of the law school student union for engaging in extremist acts. In an infamous picture taken at the time, he is seen wielding a hand-made ax which he later said was for self-defense.
In the mid-1990s, Voridis established the Hellenic Front (Elliniko Metopo), a nationalist party with close ties to Jean-Marie Le Pen’s National Front in France. In 2005, Hellenic Front merged with LAOS and Voridis was elected to Parliament two years later.
Georgiadis, who has been Samaras’ attack dog and defended big health care cuts, was given the job of New Democracy’s Parliament spokesman after being removed as Health Minister amid concerns he had been a lightning rod for criticism of austerity and suffering of people who don’t have access to the health system.
“He is one of the party’s worthiest, most skilled and most combative members,” Samaras said of the former health minister, praising his willingness to push reforms and take the heat out front and protecting the Premier’s flank.
While maintaining that he opposes extremism, Samaras has taken Georgiadis, a former TV infomercial book salesman known for strident outbursts, and Voridis under his wing, overlooking other New Democracy veterans.