ATHENS – Just falling short of the threshold to regain a seat in Parliament during the initial round of elections on May 21 in Greece, Yanis Varoufakis, the leader of the radical MeRA25 party, remains optimistic about their chances in the second round on June 25 and shows no signs of toning down his rhetoric.
Varoufakis acknowledged that his party’s unexpected outcome in the first round was largely influenced by media bias against his party’s agenda and the powerful influence of oligarchs over news outlets.
In an interview with the Italian newspaper La Stampa, Varoufakis took aim at various ideological adversaries, including Kyriakos Mitsotakis, the leader of New Democracy, who achieved a significant victory in the first round while serving as Prime Minister of the caretaker government until the next round.
Varoufakis criticized alleged refugee pushbacks, asserting that Greek oligarchs effectively control the country from behind the scenes, influencing Prime Ministers and governments. He also highlighted the failure of a surveillance scandal to resonate with voters, the construction of an anti-refugee wall along the Turkish border, and the decline of the Left.
Referring to the previous Mitsotakis government, Varoufakis claimed that they were “actively and consciously violating international law by forcing vulnerable refugees back into the stormy Aegean Sea. It is a deliberate policy that compels the Greek Coastguard, in violation of the Law of the Sea and basic human decency, to engage in actions that can only be described as both shameful and illegal.”
The former government denied engaging in pushbacks while implementing a policy aimed at deterring refugees. Varoufakis pointed to a New York Times article and video that purportedly exposed a group of refugees, including a baby in a rubber raft, being set adrift at sea by the Greek Coast Guard as evidence of these practices.
“We now have concrete evidence that they not only push back flimsy boats at sea but, even more disturbingly, they force refugees who have already arrived in Greece back onto boats, which are then towed back out to sea, where they are abandoned,” Varoufakis commented on the report.
When asked about Greece’s treatment of human rights, he affirmed that the country had indeed forgotten them. He pointed out that the population had been deeply affected by the austerity measures and economic crisis from 2010 to 2018, which resulted in significant salary cuts, tax hikes, reduced pensions, and widespread layoffs. The severe impact of these measures left the people numb, and even with the recent economic recovery following the COVID-19 pandemic, wages have yet to return to their previous levels.
Regarding border control, he acknowledged Greece’s right to secure its borders but criticized the idea of using an extended wall along the Evros River to prevent further influx of refugees from Turkey. He emphasized that building walls is a disgrace to humanity, referring to the condemnation of Donald Trump’s “Build the Wall!” rhetoric by Europeans. He stated that hiding behind such barriers epitomizes hypocrisy.
Despite the setback his party experienced in the first round, failing to win nine seats in the 300-member Parliament by a margin of 23,000 votes, he affirmed his commitment to politics and expressed his determination to campaign vigorously for the second round.
He attributed the voters’ fears to a meticulously orchestrated media campaign aimed at demonizing MeRA25 and himself personally. He claimed that the campaign was designed to protect the financial interests of the oligarchs who happened to own every TV and radio station, exposing their crimes against the population.