Greek far-right party threatens to withdraw from parliament
Crackdown on Golden Dawn follows murder of anti-fascist rapper in Athens
A protester is chased by police during clashes between police and angry anti-fascist protesters following the killing of 35-year-old anti-racism rapper Pavlos Fissas in Athens last week by a man who sympathized with the far-right Golden Dawn group. Photograph: Yannis Behrakis/Reuters
Clashes break out during an anti-fascist demonstration in Athens. Greece’s two largest unions in the public sector and in the private sector called on people to join a large rally against fascism and to call for sanctions against the extreme right Golden Dawn party. Photograph: Milos Bicanski/Getty Images
A Greek police officer watches as a member of the Golden Dawn far-right party enters the party’s headquarters in Athens. Photogrpah: John Kolesidis/Reuters
Greece’s far-right Golden Dawn Party has threatened to pull out of parliament, a move that would trigger a wave of by-elections that could destabilise the country.
The threat came after a self-proclaimed Golden Dawn supporter killed anti-fascist rapper Pavlos Fissas in Athens last week, prompting a court investigation into whether the country’s third most popular party is a criminal organisation.
The seemingly politically motivated stabbing sparked outrage and violent protests in the crisis-struck country. Police have been searching Golden Dawn party offices and several of its members were arrested or received suspended jail sentences for illegally carrying or owning weapons.
Golden Dawn has denied any links to the 34-year-old rapper’s killing and its leader Nikolaos Mihaloliakos warned it may pull its representatives from parliament if the crackdown did not stop.
“We have not reached a final decision yet. All options are open,” he said on television channel Vergina TV.
Golden Dawn has 18 out of parliament’s 300 members. If they withdraw, they would have to be replaced through special elections in every electoral district they represent, which includes most of the country’s biggest.
If such by-elections were won by the opposition, as some polls indicate, the country’s fragile two-party ruling coalition would become politically untenable, Mr Mihaloliakos argued.
“Golden Dawn holds a weapon in its hands to cause a political earthquake. Those in charge should bear that well in mind,” he said.
With political stability a key condition for the smooth going of Greece’s EU/IMF bailout, senior officials have dismissed any notion that the government was under threat.
By-elections would not lead to a general vote that could destabilise the country, interior minister Yannis Mihelakis said yesterday. “The whole affair has already damaged the country enough. A general election would just make things worse,” he told Skai TV.
“It’s not a threat. It’s a great opportunity,” deputy prime minister Evangelos Venizelos told Reuters on Wednesday after then unconfirmed reports that Golden Dawn was considering pulling its members of parliament.
Golden Dawn uses a swastika-like symbol, its supporters have been seen giving Nazi salutes and Mr Mihaloliakos has denied the Holocaust.
The killing fired outrage across the political spectrum against a party that is widely regarded as neo-Nazi and whose popularity has so far appeared immune to accusations of brutality and violence.
Golden Dawn rejects the neo-Nazi label and any involvement in the attack, saying it is the target of a witch-hunt after the government began efforts to crack down on it and its alleged influence over the Greek police force.
Greek prosecutors investigating Golden Dawn have already found early evidence that could help them establish that it is a criminal organisation, a senior court official told reporters on Wednesday.
Branding the group a criminal organisation is expected to be the first step for the government to begin reining in the party because an outright ban is difficult to push through under current Greek law.
The government has said it was instead planning to unhinge the party by cutting its funding and targeting individual members who may have masterminded attacks on immigrants and opponents as part of a criminal organisation.