SYRIZA's preparations for next month's local and European Parliament elections suffered another blow on Wednesday as Ahmet Kurt, one of the leftist party's candidates for the regional council in Eastern Macedonia and Thrace, was forced to resign after being photographed shaking hands with a Turkish nationalist.
Kurt announced he was stepping down after it emerged that he had posted on Twitter a picture of him meeting Devlet Bahceli, who heads the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), which has direct links with the Grey Wolves, a neofascist group known for its acts of political violence.
Kathimerini understands that Kurt, who was once leader of the Turkish Union of Xanthi that was banned by Greece in 1999, had approached New Democracy to stand as their candidate but was rejected by the conservative party.
His resignation was a fresh embarrassment for SYRIZA in a week during which it scrapped plans for Thrace-based Roma activist Sabiha Suleiman to run as one of its 42 candidates for the May 25 European Parliament elections. She was replaced by a member of the Muslim minority, Oumit Mestan Osman, as SYRIZA was accused by New Democracy and PASOK of bowing to pressure from the Turkish Consulate.
The leftists were also criticized after their MEP candidate, Dimitris Christopoulos, referred to the Muslim minority in Thrace as a "uniform Turkish entity." The terms of the 1923 Lausanne Treaty, which led to a population exchange between Greece and Turkey, stipulated that minorities can only be defined by their religion, not ethnicity.