Scraping for every vote he can get with his alliance government holding a slim majority in Parliament, Prime Minister and New Democracy leader Antonis Samaras has taken back two former lawmakers, one who quit the party and another who was tossed out for refusing to back continued austerity measures.
The return of former Tourism Minister Costas Markopoulos and Theodoros Soldatos gives New Democracy (ND) 127 seats, along with the 28 held by is partner and otherwise rival, the fast-fading PASOK Socialists of Evangelos Venizelos, whose party is being demeaned inside the government by ND members.
Markopoulos left the Independent Greeks to come back and Soldatos accepted Samaras’ invitation to return after the Premier had kicked him out of the party last year.
That gives the government a still tenuous, but slightly stronger 155 seats in the 300-member Parliament as Samaras moves to keep imposing more reforms on the orders of international lenders who are tightening the screws on him.
The return of the MP’s was undercut, however, when veteran ND MP and former Parliament Speaker Vyron Polydoras suggested that the party should work with the surging neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party which has been bleeding voters away from the Conservatives. Polydoras said siding with the extremists would broaden ND’s base and provide a “broader consensus for national defense.”
ND spokeswoman Anna Asimakopoulou called his remarks “strange’ and said that, “New Democracy would never work with neo-Nazis,” although both parties want all illegal immigrants deported from Greece. A close aide to Samaras added that, “New Democracy will never, ever cooperate with those neo-Nazis,” Chrysanthos Lazaridis, a party hard-liner, said in an interview with Mega TV.
Samaras had said the same about PASOK before appointing Socialists to key ministerial positions when a third member of his former coalition, the Democratic Left (DIMAR,) walked out in opposition to his closing of the national broadcaster ERT and the firing of all its 2,656 workers.
There was no indication Polydoras would be ousted as the party needs to hold onto every vote it can. Golden Dawn dismissed the idea and said that it “spits on all corrupt pseudo-politicians” and predicted that the next government would be a coalition between ND and leftist opposition SYRIZA.
In an interview on Real FM, Polydoras said an ND-Golden Dawn alliance makes sense politically, despite the widespread revision for the neo-Nazi’s. “We demonstrate sensitivity towards Golden Dawn, which got 600,000 votes (in the last election,) will get one million ([votes in the next) and we have memories of the Weimar constitution. We remember the Weimar constitution,” the government that ruled in Germany before Adolf Hitler took power.
Polydoras, a former minister and parliamentary speaker, suggested that whoever has a problem with Golden Dawn should seek to have it banned before the supreme court. But in subsequent comments on Skai TV, Polydoras said he was unaware of Asimakopoulou’s statement or of who she was. He also denied that he had used the word cooperation in his earlier comments.
He insisted that he was seeking ways to find a national consensus against the “Troikians,” a reference to the Troika of the European Union-International Monetary Fund-European Central Bank (EU-IMF-ECB) that is insisting on unrelenting austerity measures in return for $325 billion in two bailouts and want 150,000 public workers off the payrolls in the next two years.
“One speaks with the enemy but one doesn’t talk to a party that has a million voters. Anyone who doesn’t speak with a million voters has abandoned logic,” he said. He described his leader, Samaras, as a “high priest of renegotiation” and said that the Troika, and not Golden Dawn, poses the greatest threat to Greece.
“I’m Kolokotronis (a leader of the Greek war of independence,) seeking consultation with all belligerents. Golden Dawn is not the threat; the Troika represents a slow death,” he said, although he voted for the austerity measures he said are killing the country and which he – so far – still supports, contradicting himself.
He served as Fourth Vice-Speaker of the Parliament in 2009–2012, and as Speaker for the hung parliament that resulted from the May 2012 elections, a position he held for a single day, during which he hired his daughter and made her a permanent employee in his office.