Mitsotakis takes leave of active politics

After a career in politics of some 60 years, honorary New Democracy Party President Constantine Mitsotakis recently announced he is withdrawing from active politics. In these excerpts from an interview published in Kathimerini yesterday, he talks about the major landmarks in that career and his views of the election campaign so far. The ND leader has been elected parliamentary deputy in every election since 1946 bar one [in 1974]. Politics ran in the family, as his father, grandfather and brothers had been active in political life on their native Crete. [His grandmother was the sister of the statesman Eleftherios Venizelos]. His first involvement in politics was in the resistance against the German occupation of Crete, when he was twice arrested and sentenced to death. «PASOK is talking today about the Right, and it means the liberal, democratic New Democracy. Let me make it clear that I do not consider the terms ‘Right’ or ‘Left’ to be an insult. They are merely political descriptions of different political perceptions, specific to each time and place, within the framework of a democratic regime. So we need to clarify, in each particular instance, what we mean. «In 1946, the Right was something different from what it is today, with specific characteristics that no longer exist. The Right in 1946 was completely anti-Venizelos and pro-monarchist, partly pro-Metaxas and a sector of it had either cooperated with the [Germans], or accepted them. The Right of that time also differed from us in its mentality and in the means it used. «There is no doubt that the civil war brought about a turn to the Right. The governments of the Center Union in the first two years of the 1950s tried to bring about peace. That was when I first took part in government as deputy finance minister. They were good governments. [Prime Minister] Nikolaos Plastiras was direct, noble and courageous. The Center Union governments at the time did a lot of good for the country but a lot of harm to themselves. The Right [under Alexandros Papagos] eventually gained power. I do not believe the persecution of the Left was systematic, but that it emerged from the very fabric of the regime. I don’t think that particular regime could have easily changed. Perhaps Constantine Karamanlis could have abolished or moderated [the persecution of the Left] sooner, but it was still too early to rehabilitate the defeated. That was done much later by Andreas Papandreou and it was one of the few actions to his credit. However, in the meantime there was the (1967-1974) dictatorship and we all were put in prison. «Above all, Karamanlis opened up democracy after 1974. He came back from Paris a completely different man from the 1950s… The policies he followed were essentially what we had decided on in Paris and with the agreement of all the other parties, apart from Andreas [Papandreou]. There was a good understanding with the Communist Party of Greece.»