Mitsotakis Pushes New Democracy To Center

New Democracy chief Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis is soaring in polls. (AP Photo/ Petros Giannakouris)

ATHENS – In a rare show of discord with Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, Administrative Reform Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said the New Democracy Conservatives should abandon pursuit of far-right voters and those who left the party and become more centrist if it wants to hold onto power.

Mitsotakis, whose father was prime minister, said he was opposed to Samaras’ plans to bring back former members to bolster its ranks even though they had criticized the party and left to join what he called “populist” groups.

Mitsotakis told Mega TV that he was not willing to sit on the same parliamentary benches as politicians who had called him a traitor in previous years and said Samaras, who had been accused of wooing voters from the ultra far-right Golden Dawn party before trying to dismantle it should look to the center ground.

“This is where the truly creative forces of Greek society are to be found,” said Mitsotakis. “These are the forces that will get the country out of the crisis and they come mainly from the private sector but include very capable public servants.

“I believe that as Greece’s main center-right party New Democracy should address these people, primarily through its political discourse and its actions.”

New Democracy has paid a big price for imposing austerity measures on the orders of international lenders, falling behind the major opposition Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) which is opposed to the pay cuts, tax hikes, slashed pensions, and worker firings that Samaras embraced after also first rejecting them when he was out of power before 2012.

As reform minister, he has been charged with overseeing the dismissal of thousands of workers, mostly lower-paid classes such as cleaning ladies, school nurses, crossing guards and janitors, while exempting Parliament workers, managers, consultants and the politically-protected.

Mitsotakis’s comments were the first signs of real dissension in the party as talk about its future direction began to surface in the last week, with Samaras hoping to boost its support and attract new voters after far-right advisers had his ear.

The leader of Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS), Giorgos Kartzaferis, who was tossed out of New Democracy 12 years ago and whose party failed to win enough seats in 2012 to stay in Parliament – in a move apparently designed to get him back in – said he’s now willing to work with New Democracy after maligning it for years.

He said it’s the only way to keep SYRIZA from coming to power although it would also elevate him after two of his former top members, Adonis Georgiadis and Makis Voridis, bolted to join New Democracy and were given plum positions despite rancor from party members that the two were far-right extremists.

Karatzaferis was responding to an invitation extended by Voridis. Georgiadis, who was a bombastic health minister, has suggested that other right-wing politicians who quit New Democracy in disagreement over austerity measures should consider returning to its ranks. Karatzaferis had blasted them for betrayal when they quit and Mitsotakis wants no part of any of them.