“I decided to play a specific role for the good of the party and Greece, we could not leave 500,000 Greeks trapped in Golden Dawn and do nothing. Somebody had to maintain contacts with them. I was telling them what they wanted to hear.” With these words former cabinet secretary Panagiotis Baltakos tried to justify his contacts with Golden Dawn MPs just hours after the videotaped footage was released by MP Ilias Kasidiaris. Speaking to Real FM on Thursday morning, the former close aid of Antonis Samaras claimed that the prime minister was not informed about his contacts. Baltakos admitted further that he had more than one contacts with Golden Dawn MPs and that said “there might be more videos tapes.”
This sentence added a new headache to Nea Dimokratia in general and PM Samaras in particular and the pain grew when a few hours later, Golden Dawn MP Panagiotaros threatened that there were more videotaped conversations with Baltakos and that these videos would be released soon.
So far, Antonis Samaras has remained silent, while ND officials appear in the media trying to justify the unjustifiable. Odd enough there has been no official statement neither from ND nor from the PM’s office, despite the fact that the scandal is one of the biggest in Greece’s modern times.
With the Nea Dimokratia obviously being hostage in the hands of Golden Dawn, not only the opposition parties but also coalition government partner PASOK are calling the Prime Minister to give explanations to the Parliament.
Baltakos was a close aide to Samaras, he was appointed by the Prime Minister and the main question is whether the PM knew about Baltakos’ contacts to Golden Dawn.
Ex PM George Papandreou described the scandal as “family business” and implied that PASOK had to withdraw its support form the coalition government.
SYRIZA leader, Alexis Tsipras, demanded the resignation of the Minister of Public Order and Justice Minister, some party officials even demand the government resignation and snap elections.
In his videotaped chat with Kasidiaris, Baltakos claimed that Minister of Public Order Nikos Dendias and Justice Minister Charalambos Athanasiou had persuaded the top prosecutor in persecuting Golden Dawn. With statements to the press both ministers dismissed Baltakos’ claims as “products of imagination”.
Coalition government at risk?
“Imagination” or not, “personal initiative” or not, fact is that the close aide of the Prime Minister had personal contacts and casual talks with members of a political party under investigation for forming a criminal organization – not to mention the racist ideology they represent.
This development does not hit only Nea Dimocratia and PM Samaras but also coalition partner PASOK. Both in a coalition government with an extra thin majority of 152 in a parliament of 300. Will socialist party officials unite to keep supporting the government and thus ahead of the municipality and European Parliament elections in May, with public opinion polls to threaten the party?
Will Nea Dimocratia manage to prove, it is capable to deal with the crisis and go to elections unharmed? Nea Dimocratia tried to close the issue with Baltakos’ resignation. But neither the opposition nor PASOK will allow things go under the carpet so easily. Odd enough, supporters of ex ND leader and former PM Kostas Karamanlis remain rather silent.
It is not a secret here in Greece that centre-wing members of Nea Dimocratia have been observing with discontent the right-wing trend of Samaras. He had acquainted three former members of ultra-nationalist LAOS – among them Health Minister Adonis Georgiadis- and has been surrounded by an inner circle of advisers known for “hard right views.”
Panagiotis Baltakos, a “born anti-communist” according to his own words, had often drew criticism over his far-right views, views that were reflected in the Greek legislation as he was granted extra authority to determine the content of legislation.
In other Baltakosgate news…
At the same time, some “conspiracy theories” have been pushed through the media and the websites. One scenario claims the video was released in order to damage “Greece’s success and primary surplus.” According to the second scenario, Golden Dawn aimed to create political instability and drag the country to early elections.
Meanwhile the prosecutors launched an investigation about the illegal videotape of the conversation. The investigation may end in felony charges against GD MP Kasidiaris.
Oh, and the police is still after Baltakos’ son who beat three Golden Dawn MPs inside the Parliament right after the video release.
* transcript of Baltakos’s interview to Real FM here (in Greek)
PS while the political world is been stirred up, the common Greeks go after their daily work (seek a job) and duties (paying bills). Some of them laughing about “those up there” and the majority asks “Who is this Baltakos?”