Tatoulis ousted, ND majority is back down to one

New Democracy’s parliamentary majority was reduced yesterday to just one seat for the third time in less than a year but this time there appears no way back for the ousted deputy, Petros Tatoulis, who suggested that Greece could benefit from the creation of a centrist party. Tatoulis, who represents Arcadia in the Peloponnese, was expelled from the conservative party and will continue his political career as an independent MP after publicly criticizing Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis in an interview he gave to the left-leaning Ethnos newspaper. In a discussion about the ongoing Vatopedi property swap scandal, Tatoulis said that the premier «is in danger of being seen as an accomplice rather than powerless» to prevent the allegedly damaging exchange of land between the state and the Mount Athos monastery. Tatoulis went on to hold Karamanlis personally responsible for the government’s poor performance, before questioning the prime minister’s attempt to dissuade rebels in the party at a recent central committee meeting by challenging them to bring down his administration if they did not agree with it. «A party’s introspection does not end by shouting or ordering people about, it only ends with policies that overtake it,» said the deputy. The prime minister saw this personal attack on his leadership as the last straw in a stream of continuous criticism from Tatoulis. After consulting with some of his close advisers and top ministers, Karamanlis wrote to parliamentary speaker Dimitris Sioufas and informed him that Tatoulis would no longer be considered a member of New Democracy’s parliamentary group. Karamanlis did not make any public statement, leaving that to party secretary Lefteris Zagoritis. He said Tatoulis’s interview was «an event that was the latest in a chain of events that showed he had become cut off from the party. Zagoritis expressed sadness about the decision «because it comes at a time when the government is trying to deal with the international financial crisis and find solutions to people’s problems.» Tatoulis wasted no time in airing his views on the prime minister’s decision to oust the 55-year-old from the conservative fold. «With his decision today, the prime minister has revealed himself to be an accomplice in corruption and incompetence,» he said. «A prime minister who is being held hostage and is trapped in personal impasses is dangerous for the country.» The lawmaker did not stop there, as he suggested that now was the time for a new party to be formed in Greece based on centrist beliefs and policies. «The center must re-discover a way to express itself,» he said. «Serious people must drive the country forward. Real politics starts now.» The MP also posted his thoughts on his website, which he has used over the last year to criticize the government’s shortcomings, particularly its apparent inability to tackle graft. Tatoulis, a former deputy culture minister, began his outspoken criticism in the wake of the Zachopoulos affair, which began to make news last December. Tatoulis suggested that then Culture Ministry general secretary, Christos Zachopoulos, could act with impunity because of his close association with the prime minister. Although another two conservative deputies who have been ousted this year eventually returned to the party, there seems no way back for Tatoulis.