ATHENS (Reuters) - Greece must shame corrupt politicians, cap immigration and be tougher on Turkey, far-right leader George Karatzaferis said ahead of an October 4 election where he is seen gaining support.
Karatzaferis’ Popular Orthodox Alarm party (LA.O.S) has ridden a wave of discontent with corruption and economic hardships to win up to 6.4 percent of support in opinion polls, after becoming in 2007 the first far-right group to enter Greek parliament since the return to democracy in 1974.
“People are angry ... we are heading to elections and no one has been punished, or at least, exposed,” the former bodybuilder and journalist told Reuters in an interview. “The most constructive way would be to reveal the names. If names were revealed, the rest would be afraid of the public humiliation.”
After coming to power in 2004 on a promise to clean up Greek politics after decades of socialist graft, the outgoing conservatives have themselves been shaken by scandals, an issue much highlighted by LA.O.S in election pamphlets.
Karatzaferis, 62, a former member of the ruling New Democracy party, founded LA.O.S in 2000. He denies being a right wing extremist but his program bears strong resemblance to far-right parties with a strong focus on national sovereignty, rejection of a multi-cultural society and fears that Greeks will be outnumbered by migrants.
In previous elections he had recruited members of the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn group, blamed for violent attacks against leftist groups and immigrants.
Playing on many Greeks’ uneasiness with a rising number of immigrants arriving on boats or by land via Turkey, Karatzaferis is campaigning for a tough approach toward immigration, including introducing quotas.
“What I am asking for is that there is a balance throughout Europe,” he said.
Karatzaferis also advocates a tougher approach toward neighbor Turkey, saying the EU should step in to help protect Greece’s borders and should offer Ankara a special partnership rather than accession to the bloc.
“We have problems, huge problems with Turkey, which does not stop making claims at our expense, unfortunately,” he said.
The outgoing conservatives and main opposition socialists both support Turkey’s EU accession, on certain conditions including respecting Cyprus’ sovereignty.
Karatzaferis said he hoped to get one more seat in parliament to have an 11-strong group, but did not believe that Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis’ conservatives could come first, making the question of a coalition with them obsolete.
In has offered his support to the conservatives, who have rejected it while toughening their migration policy after LA.O.S made its best score ever in June’s European election.
“Not even Mr. Karamanlis himself wants (to win). Mr. Karamanlis is escaping, he’s leaving, he’s quitting,” he said. “He is tired, he wants to go. And that is obvious.”
He was no kinder to PASOK leader George Papandreou, whom polls see winning the election. “Greek people realize that Mr. Papandreou does not have all the virtues they require,” he said.