NEWS

PM, Venizelos to discuss fallout from Baltakos video

Prime Minister Antonis Samaras and Deputy Prime Minister Evangelos Venizelos are due to meet on Friday morning to assess the fallout from the revelations concerning former cabinet secretary Panayiotis Baltakos, as the government braces itself for possible further damaging recordings to emerge in the coming days.

Samaras and Venizelos held a long telephone conversation on Thursday, a day after Baltakos was forced to resign when a secretly filmed video of him discussing the probe into Golden Dawn with the neo-Nazi party’s spokesman, Ilias Kasidiaris, was posted online. The content of the discussion prompted an extensive political debate on Thursday, with the coalition, Samaras in particular, coming under a barrage of criticism.

SYRIZA suggested that Baltakos' hardline views had influenced the prime minister. – "When we brought the Golden Dawn issue to Parliament and asked for the judicial system to intervene and for the police to do their job properly, they were silent," said SYRIZA spokesman Panos Skourletis, who accused Baltakos of using the neofasicists as a form of bogeyman to blackmail coalition MPs into voting for legislation.

SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras also asked Parliament to set aside time to debate the Baltakos matter in the next few days.

PASOK is keen for Samaras to take action against any members of the government that could be deemed as holding extreme views. "When you tolerate fascism, you toy with democracy," said Development Minister Michalis Chrysochoidis. "You lose your morals and soul."

Samaras and his aides have yet to decide on what strategy to take but would like to put the issue to bed quickly, especially as European Parliament elections are looming on May 25.

There was public support on Thursday for the premier from Defense Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos. "The government and the prime minister are still the guarantors of constitutional order, our country’s economic recovery and the safeguarding of our democratic institutions," said Avramopoulos, who ran against Samaras for the party leadership in 2009.

In the meantime, the government fears that more incriminating videos, not just involving Baltakos but other coalition officials, may surface. Baltakos did not rule out this possibility when he spoke to Real FM.

"There may be more videos and I may have said more things," he said. "I cannot remember with which Golden Dawn MPs I met. I do not remember what else I have said and if I said something about the prime minister."

The former cabinet secretary insisted, though, that Samaras was not aware he was meeting with Golden Dawn MPs, including the party’s deputy leader Christos Pappas. "The prime minister did not know," Baltakos said. "I was operating on my own initiative as a mediator for the good of the country. I wanted to dislodge the thousands of Greeks who had voted for Golden Dawn."

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