|LEONIDAS KYRKOS (Associated Press/Icon Press)|
Leonidas Kyrkos; Greek leftist won widespread praise
Leonidas Kyrkos; Greek leftist won widespread praise ATHENS - Leonidas Kyrkos, a veteran leftist politician who once nearly faced a firing squad and eventually became one of Greece’s most respected politicians, died early yesterday after a long illness, Greek media reported. He was 86.
A longtime member of the Greek Communist Party, Mr. Kyrkos was among a group of reformers who left the party in 1968 to form their own group.
He was also instrumental in creating the Coalition of the Left, which briefly reunited the reformists with the Communists and other independent leftists in 1989 and participated in an unprecedented coalition with the New Democracy conservatives.
Opposition leader Antonis Samaras, leader of conservative New Democracy, said, “He was lucky enough to become beloved throughout the political spectrum . . . stubbornly attached to his ideals. He was also unusually candid in his self-criticism.’’
Mr. Kyrkos joined the communist youth and the resistance against Nazi occupation. In the civil war that followed Greece’s liberation in 1944, he was sentenced to death for his membership in the Communist Party. He and several other activists were days from facing the firing squad when an international outcry forced the Greek government to suspend the executions in 1949.
Released under an amnesty in 1953, Mr. Kyrkos was elected to Parliament in 1961 with the United Democratic Left, essentially a front organization for the banned Communist Party. Mr. Kyrkos became increasingly at odds with the Communist leadership. This eventually led to a party split in 1968, with Mr. Kyrkos joining the reformists in a new leftist party.
When a group of colonels imposed a dictatorship in 1967, Mr. Kyrkos was jailed for five years. Upon the restoration of democracy in 1974, he became a deputy until 1981, when he was elected to the European Parliament, serving until 1985.
In 2010, he gave his support to a group of moderates who split from the Coalition to form Democratic Left and he openly advocated collaboration with the ruling socialists.