Makis Voridis, a longtime member of ultranationalist parties, was appointed health minister in Greece.
Monday’s appointment, part of a widespread government reshuffle, was met with disappointment by members of the Greek Jewish community.
“No Jewish person can be happy about the appointment of a man who was, until two years ago, a head of the extreme right-wing and anti-Semitic LAOS party,” said Victor Eliezer, the secretary general of the Central Board of Jewish Communities in Greece.
Voridis, 49, after being elected to the European Parliament, formed an alliance with the head of France’s National Front party, Jean-Marie Le Pen, who was a guest at his wedding. He then merged his party with LAOS, a populist, nationalistic party founded by a politician known for his anti-Semitic views, George Karatzaferis.
Two years ago, Voridis was among several LAOS members who joined the conservative New Democracy party of Prime Minister Antonis Samaras after LAOS failed to qualify for Parliament amid the rise of the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party. Samaras has been accused of pandering to the far right in a bid to stem the loss of votes to Golden Dawn, which emerged as the third-largest party in Greece.
Samaras maintains that those who joined New Democracy have committed to abide by party policy, which condemns anti-Semitism and racism.
Voridis has since written to the Jewish community, expressing his opposition to Holocaust denial and his commitment to “putting an end to anti-Semitic, racist prejudice which is an outright violation of human dignity.”
Eliezer called it a “step in the right direction,” but said the Jewish community would like to see him and the other former LAOS members completely renounce their past views. In the reshuffle, Voridis replaces another former LAOS member, Adonis Georgiadis.
Voridis had risen to prominence as the head of a student group at Athens University that fellow students recount as painting swastikas on the walls and greeting each other with “Heil Hitler.”