New Democracy Faces Splintering

ATHENS – Even as he’s making inroads against the ruling SYRIZA, New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis is dealing with the likelihood dissidents will leave to join a new right-wing party that could include the fallen Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) of Giorgos Karatzaferis.

LAOS had served in a previous interim coalition with New Democracy and the PASOK Socialists before losing favor and failing in the 2012 elections to get back into Parliament. Karatzaferis formed the party in 2000 after being bounced from New Democracy, the party he now wants to undermine.

Amid talks of a new nationalist party being formed, Karatzaferis deflected long-standing criticism he and his group are far-right extremists.

“They used to call me a (right-wing) extremist because I had taken on [Makis] Voridis, [Adonis] Georgiadis and [Thanos] Plevris],” Karatzaferis told SKAI TV, referring to former stalwarts in his party who have far-right stances on political issues. “Now these have all moved to New Democracy,” he said.

Former ministers Voridis and Georgiadis were ousted from LAOS after voting in favor of the terms of Greece’s loan agreement in 2012, including austerity, and then they jumped to New Democracy where they became prominent.

“When I took on Voridis he was more right wing than (Nikos) Michaloliakos,” Karatzaferis said in reference to the leader of the ultra far-rigt Golden Dawn, which has been accused of being Nazi sympathizers.

While Mitsotakis is trying to position New Democracy for a comeback after it took twin beatings last year to Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’ SYRIZA after backing austerity – which the Leftists quickly did despite campaigning against it, some Conservatives aren’t happy.

A former cabinet secretary and close aide of ex-prime minister Antonis Samaras, Panayiotis Baltakos, said he’s approached some of Mitsotakis’ Members of Parliament in a bid to get them to defect, which could weaken all right-wing party attempts to unseat SYRIZA.

“We have been in contact with former ministers from the Samaras government and with New Democracy MPs who are unhappy about the approach taken by Mitsotakis,” Karatzaferis said last week.

Baltakos had been accused of cozying up to Golden Dawn, all of whose leaders and dozens of members are on trial on charges of running a criminal gang, which they deny.

“As much distance separates me from neo-liberalism as from Communism,” added Karatzaferis in criticism of Mitsotakis’s pro-business values.