Harilaos Florakis dies

Former Communist Party leader Harilaos Florakis, a veteran left-wing politician who enjoyed widespread respect across Greece’s turbulent political spectrum, died of a heart attack in his Athens home yesterday at the age of 91. Florakis, who fought in the Resistance during the German occupation of Greece and led a communist unit during the 1946-49 Civil War that followed World War II, took the historic step of joining in a coalition government with conservative New Democracy in 1989 – breaking a major taboo in Greek politics. Former ND chairman and prime minister Constantine Mitsotakis drew particular attention to that step yesterday, in statements following the announcement of Florakis’s death, as did politicians from the other main parties. «He was a front-line fighter, which cost him persecution and long spells in prison during the periods of political upheaval our country went through,» Mitsotakis said. «He did not capitulate or lose courage. He preserved, even during the hardest of times, a calm way of thinking and, above all, the belief that we all belong to the same people and the same country, and carry an obligation to coexist.» PM Costas Karamanlis praised Florakis as «a great political personality who personally contributed, in a decisive manner, to overcoming the passions of the past and cementing democracy and stability.» President Karolos Papoulias lauded Florakis’s «honesty, courage and deep wisdom,» while opposition leader George Papandreou spoke of «the last historic leader of the communist Left in Greece.» Synaspismos Left Coalition leader Alekos Alavanos called Florakis an «epic personality who bridged two great periods of the Greek Left.»