ATHENS – Brooking no dissent even as more is growing, major opposition SYRIZA Progressive Alliance leader and former premier Alexis Tsipras booted his former justice minister, Stavros Kontonis, for criticizing the party and a law passed late in its reign providing leniency for violent criminals.
After Kontonis, who said he's been a leftist for four decades, was bashed by party loyalists, Tsipras tossed him from the party, a move the former justice chief said amounted to “slander and Stalinism.”
Kontonis said he opposed the law that was passed in the last days of the former party's 4 1/2-year reign that ended with a beating to the New Democracy Conservatives in July 7, 2019 snap elections.
The law was designed to go easy on terrorists and anarchists adored by SYRIZA's hardcore element but was then used to see killers and violent criminals who weren't leftists also walk free or get easier sentences.
Denouncing the law, Prime Minister and New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis didn't to reverse it or bring tougher terms, and Kontonis said he was upset it could be used by the defense for the leaders of the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn and dozens of members convicted of running or being in a criminal gang.
In a statement issued, SYRIZA turned on Kontonis, as Tsipras did on former supporters such as famed composer Mikis Theodorakis, who soured on him for breaking anti-austerity promises while in power.
The statement said that Kontonis – whom SYRIZA criticized for indirectly backing New Democracy – had “forfeited the right to be a member of the party," after he decided "to turn against his own party".
It also accused him of choosing "to demean a huge popular victory against the criminal action of the neo-Nazis," refering to the conviction as Tsipras stood outside the courthouse demanding justice, not mentioning the leniency law.
Kontonis attributed his resignation from the party’s central committee to infighting within SYRIZA, which, he said, “does not correspond to the needs of workers, the people and society,” said Kathimerini of the move.