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Antonis Samaras' hard-right friends

Takis Baltakos was not the only rightwinger with the prime minister's ear

Chrysanthos Lazaridis, Failos Kranidiotis, Makis Voridis and Adonis Georgiadis: Prime Minister Antonis Samaras' hard-right friends, ministers and advisors

Prime Minister Antonis Samaras (Photo: Reuters) Prime Minister Antonis Samaras (Photo: Reuters) It's not only Pasok and Syriza where you'll hear people saying that the country is being ruled by a group of hard right-wing friends of Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, but also in New Democracy, where there is increasing resentment over some of the figures the prime minister has surrounded himself with.

The efforts of the prime minister's office to present the backroom talks between Takis Baltakos and Golden Dawn as some kind of personal initiative on the party of the former cabinet secretary have stumbled because its common knowledge that there are there hard-right elements in the government.

Apart from Baltakos, other powerful hard-right elements in Samaras' environment include Chrysanthos Lazaridis, Failos Kranidiotis, Makis Voridis and Adonis Georgiadis, while the prime minister's communications unit is run by George Mouroutis.

All of them share a common characteristic: they don't have a New Democracy pedigree. Some are personal friends of Samaras from his days as leader of Political Spring (a rightwing party he set in 1993 after being sacked as New Democracy foreign minister over his hardline stance on the Macedonia naming dispute). Others were involved in Network 21, a nationalist think-tank set up in 1997. Another group defected from the rightwing populist Popular Orthodox Rally (Laos) party.

For this reason, these figures have been repeatedly targeted by New Democracy's centrist wing of the as well as by Pasok. Up to now at least, the appeal of power has managed to drown out the disquiet over Samaras' hard-right men.

Chrysanthos Lazaridis

Chrysanthos Lazaridis Chrysanthos Lazaridis An adviser to the prime minister and an MP, Chrysanthos Lazaridis is not considered to be as hard right as others, but he has displayed an obsession with the left, an issue he shares with Samaras. He is believed to have come up with New Democracy's version of the theory of the two extremes, which he used, after the murder of Pavlos Fyssas by a Golden Dawn supporter in September 2013, to try and present Syriza as a party beyond the constitutional pale. That drew criticism from centrist figures within New Democracy, including former government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros and former interior minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos.

Born in New York in 1954, Lazaridis was involved in the left from a young age. He was arrested during the junta for his involvement in the Polytechnic uprising, was tortured and remained in prison until the fall of the regime. After the restoration of democracy, he became a member of the Communist Party of Greece (Interior) and served as deputy leader of the National Students' Union of Greece (Efee) under Christos Papoutsis, who would become a Pasok minister.

During his postgraduate studies in economics in London and New York, he became influenced by the ideas of Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher. He became associated with Samaras through Network 21, the infamous nationalist-patriotic think tank, in which he and Failos Kranidiotis were involved.

Failos Kranidiotis

Failos Kranidiotis Failos Kranidiotis The lawyer in Greece for Kurdish rebel leader Abdullah Ocalan, who was captured by Turkish agents in Kenya while being taken from the Greek ambassador's residence in Nairobi in 1999, Failos Kranidiotis, like Lazaridis, meet Samaras through Network 21, the founding of which in 1997 the prime minister had described as a momentous event.

This marginal think tank had as its aim the "the patriotic awakening of the Greeks", with plenty of doses of Greek Christian Orthodoxy.

In 2005, representatives of the Network wrote newspaper column pieces attacking New Democracy's then leader Kostas Karamanlis after he issued a statement on the death of Harilaos Florakis, who led the Communist Party from 1972 to 1989. They also called for the restoration of the prestige of the military and police.

Kranidiotis, apart from being a "a personal friend of Samaras", as he has stated, was elected a member of New Democracy's political committee, its highest body, at the party's conference last June, after many failed attempts despite his privileged position in Samaras' circle.

After the murder of Pavlos Fyssas by a Golden Dawn supporter in September 2013, Kranidiotis maintained that the main problem was leftwing violence. Despite the official government line taken against Golden Dawn in October, he insisted that he would not condemn "nationalists and patriot", but would reserve his "bullets" for the real enemy. That comment resulted in him being summoned to New Democracy's headquarters by the party's secretary to explain himself.

Following intense opposition from within New Democracy, Kranidiotis announced on Monday that he would not be a candidate for New Democracy in May's Parliament European elections. 

Makis Voridis

Makis Voridis Makis Voridis The door to Maximos mansion, the prime minister's official residence and office, is always open for Makis Voridis and not only because of his status as parliamentary representative of New Democracy's parliamentary faction. A former Popular Orthodox Rally (Laos) MP, he joined New Democracy in February 2012 and has become one of Samaras' closest contacts.

But 30 years ago, Voridis was involved in the National Political Union (Epen), a far-right political party set by jailed former junta leader Georgios Papadopoulos, who appointed him as leader of its youth wing, to succeed Nikos Michaloliakos, who now leads Golden Dawn. A photograph dating from 1985 shows Voridis, wielding a home-made axe-in his hand, participating in patrols around the Athens law school in pursuit of leftist fellow students.

Voridis later went on to found Hellenic Front, an extreme rightwing party, which he led, in 2005, into Laos. In November 2011, he was appointed transport minister in the Lucas Papademos government. Laos expelled him in February after he voted for the second memorandum package.

Despite his hard-right history, Voridis was among those officials who called for the dissolution of Golden Dawn following the Fyssas murder. At a meeting in the prime minister's office on the morning of 28 September 2013, the day Golden Dawn's leaders were arrested, he said that the murder meant the neonazi party could not be used as a government crutch.

Adonis Georgiadis

Adonis Georgiadis Adonis Georgiadis The health minister is a topic in itself. From selling books with nationalistic and antisemitic content on TV to being publisher of his Greek History and Greek Education magazines, Adonis Georgiades was elected for Laos in 2007 and, like Voridis, first became a minister in the Papademos government and joined New Democracy after being expelled from Laos for voting for the second memorandum. In the last cabinet reshuffle, in June 2013, he received the health portfolio, where he has applied troika policies with great enthusiasm.

While Baltakos, the former cabinet secretary, declared himself to be an "anticommunist", Georgiadis has told parliament that he hates communists.

* A version of this article first appeared in Greek in Eleftherotypia on 5 April 2014
 

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