ATHENS – Surprised he’s perched to have his pro-Russian, ultra-religious, super-nationalist Elliniki Lysi (Greek Solution) party enter Parliament in July 7 snap elections, TV pitchman Kyriakos Velopoulos said he’s sticking to his guns for anti-immigrant walls and land mines.
It’s an extreme position even in Greece where the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party’s 15 lawmakers and dozens of members are in the fourth year of a trial on charges of running a criminal gang and wanted to bar all immigrants.
Velopoulos is renowed for seeming to be on his TV show 24 hours a day and using to rant against his perceived enemies, sell Letters from Jesus and hair growth tonic, not noticing the irony that he’s mostly bald.
But he seems to have caught on with fringe voters as Golden Dawn’s popularity has fallen, but rejects any notion he’s in the same camp. “I would be proud if I were responsible for the end of Nazis in Greece,” he told the news agency Reuters which featured him.
Surveys give his party 2.5-3.5 percent of the vote, with 3 percent needed to get into Parliament where he said he would push his positions, including calling for the death penalty for drug dealers and pedophiles, or at least life sentences.
From the studio where he sells everything from herbal supplements and creams promising to cure everything from rheumatoid arthritis to clinical depression, Alzheimer’s and baldness he told the agency: “I want to be honest, I didn’t believe we could get 4.2 (percent),” referring to his strong showing in May 26 elections for the European Parliament and Greek municipalities.
Velopoulos, who is 53, said maybe he’s becoming popular because, “I haven’t learned to lie, like all politicians do, because I’m a businessman.”
Maybe so but he has a politician’s eye for details and targets, complaining Greece was sold out by politicians to get 326 billion euros ($368.08 billion) in three international bailouts, as he denounced the harsh austerity that was attached.
Described by critics as a right-wing fanatic, he’s finding there’s a lot of Greeks who feel like he does and that another attraction is his business background, even if it’s what his opponents liken to being a snake oil salesman on TV, just selling junk.
His answer: “They have never worked a day in their life,” snickering away.
He said that Europe must remain Christian, Greece could start charging royalties for every one of its artifacts in museums around the world, and that he would block migrants and refugees from coming anymore, the country holding more than 70,000 in detention centers and camps.
“First off, I would put a wall up on Evros, with mines,” said Velopoulos of the river that forms a natural border between Turkey and Greece. “I couldn’t care less what Europe says. I will protect my borders for one reason and one rea son only, because I’m in danger from Turkey.”