Karatzaferis’s antics

France played a key role in shaping Greece’s political life after the fall of the military dictatorship. After all it was the nation that attracted the majority of self-exiled politicians and anti-establishment figures. It was in Paris that the late statesman Constantine Karamanlis remolded his political personality. It was the prestige and insistence by then French President Valery Giscard d’Estaing that bent German resistance and Greece was finally accepted as a member of the European Economic Community in 1981. France was also a source of political inspiration for late Socialist leader Andreas Papandreou. The slogans that won PASOK the elections in Greece were in fact borrowed from his French counterpart Francois Mitterrand: «Here and Now» and «Change» were so successful here that they were widely thought to be homegrown slogans. All this is now history, save one last case that concerns Giorgos Karatzaferis, chairman of the ultra-nationalist LAOS party. France was the first state to see the growth of an organized extreme-right party. It was Jean-Marie Le Pen’s Front National which was enhanced by Mitterrand in his bid to further undermine the country’s right. That is not to say that Karatzaferis and LAOS exist thanks to PASOK. Similarly, the populist exchanges between LAOS and New Democracy, Greece’s main conservative opposition, and Karatzaferis’s populist language are not worthy of comment. After all, political language in Greece has lost its currency. The conclusion rather is that LAOS is moving into a gray zone. Starting out as a poor imitation of the Front National, LAOS adopted slogans about migration and adopted a hawkish tone on foreign policy issues such as the Macedonia name dispute and relations with Turkey. As far as it kept to that, it was rather successful. Then the cracks began to show. In France, Le Pen took a liberal line on the economy as the Gaulist right kept a clear statist profile. Following the wrong example, Karatzaferis seemed to forget that his voters are pensioners, clerks or small business owners – in other words, people who have been hurt by the memorandum that the government signed with the troika. It’s far from certain whether Karatzaferis has thereby helped «save the country.» But by failing to reconcile the tension between voter sentiment and party policy, Karatzaferis is drifting into absurd territory – nothing new to Greece’s political system.

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