OPINION

Politicians’ pasts count in the present

politicians-pasts-count-in-the-present

When does a politician’s past come under the statute of limitations? When are their own sins expunged and when is citizens’ forgetfulness legitimate, even appropriate?

When, in the recent cabinet reshuffle, New Democracy lawmaker Makis Voridis became interior minister, an upgrade from his previous agriculture portfolio, the left-wing press gleefully resurrected his notorious far-right past: from his appointment as leader of the youth wing of the far-right National Political Union by party leader Georgios Papadopoulos, the jailed leader of the successful 1967 military coup, at the expense of ousted Nikos Michaliolakos, later leader of Golden Dawn, in 1985, to his carrying an ax during a brawl with left-wing students at the Athens Law School, his invitation to French far-right leader Jean-Marie Le Pen in the 1990s, his collaboration with notorious Holocaust denier Konstantinos Plevris, and his candidacy for mayor of Athens with xenophobic parties in 1998 and 2002, when he was 38.

It was only in 2019 that Voridis, now in his mid-50s, apologized for his mistakes and the anti-Semitism of his youth when he visited the Jewish Museum in Athens.

People have the right to regret their past and reconsider their mistakes, but there is a limit to what the voters are supposed to “forget.” The same is true of Andreas Loverdos, who was recently replaced as parliamentary spokesman for the Movement for Change (KINAL). In 1997, Loverdos, then as now a social democrat who aspires to lead his party, had written in favor of bringing back the death penalty. He was then 41 and he was publishing his considered view as an associate professor of constitutional law at Panteion University. But his darkest hour probably came when he pilloried HIV-positive sex workers in the name of protecting the Greek family. More recently, he had assimilated migrants to terrorists. Can a politician with such ideas represent a modern center-left party in Parliament?

Before someone accuses me of having aselective memory, let me say that the same is true for left-wing SYRIZA’s former government ally, Panos Kammenos, who had compared gays to people who engage in bestiality, or his former MP Dimitris Kammenos (no relation) who had called supporters of Greece’s remaining in the eurozone Nazis. Finally, next time the admirers of leftist former health minister Pavlos Polakis go to vote, they would do well to print his “best ofs” and ask themselves what this person has to do with the Left.

Politicians’ pasts are a sort of horoscope for their future.