Greek parliament votes to ban extreme-right party from elections

Greek parliament votes to ban extreme-right party from elections
Опубликовано: Tuesday, 11 April 2023 21:14

The move comes ahead of a tight poll race between the ruling New Democracy and opposition Syriza parties.

ATHENS — Greek MPs voted Tuesday to ban the extreme-right Greeks-National Party from running in elections, aiming to block its members linked to the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn criminal organization from entering parliament.

The Greeks-National Party was founded two years ago by former lawmaker Ilias Kasidiaris, who is currently serving a more than 13-year prison sentence over his leading role in Golden Dawn, which was declared a criminal organization in 2020 for charges including murder, racist violence and money laundering. Kasidiaris still managed to gain significant support from messages posted on YouTube while in jail.

The Greek government had originally passed legislation in February banning the Greeks-National Party on the grounds that its leader was convicted of serious offenses and that the party wouldn’t “serve the free functioning of a democratic constitution.” But the party last week appointed a new leader, a retired prosecutor, in an effort to bypass the ban.

The legislation passed by parliament expanded the scope of the ban and was backed by the MPs from the ruling center-right New Democracy party as well as the opposition Socialist Pasok party. The legislation also requests that the Supreme Court hold a full plenary session to consider the ban, rather than a specific section, for example, one that oversees elections.

The move comes ahead of what’s set to be a tight election in May between New Democracy and the main left-wing opposition party, Syriza. Polls predict the Greeks-National Party could win around 4 percent of the vote — just enough to pass the 3 percent threshold to enter parliament — but it’s unclear which other parties could benefit if the extreme-right group is banned.

The number of parties that make it into parliament after the election will also be crucial because it determines how much support from others the winning group needs to form a majority.

Some criticized the timing of the ban just ahead of the national ballot as well as how it was pushed through right before parliament was dissolved before an Orthodox Easter break and then the May 21 election. Opposition parties and some constitutional experts also raised questions about the efficacy of the legislation and accused the government of meddling in the judiciary. Others accused the government of acting too late, with successive amendments voted on at the last minute.

“The institutional response to fascism must be straightforward,” said former Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, leader of Syriza, ahead of the vote. “We call upon you to take this seriously and to accede to a reasonable legislative position that does not violate the constitution and does not create the impression that justice is being manipulated.”

Christos Tzanerikos resigned as vice president of the Supreme Court on Monday, arguing the government was intervening by trying to dictate the format of judges who will ultimately decide whether the party will be banned.

Interior Minister Makis Voridis responded to critics of the ban Tuesday, saying: “You are sacrificing the strategic focus that we should have had together so that the message is clear without question marks, without asterisks, without footnotes.” Voridis added: “We all together had to say that criminals cannot pretend to be civic leaders and political parties.”

Greeks-National Party leader Kasidiaris, meanwhile, called the ban an “abomination” on Twitter, but added that it will still awaken “millions of Greek citizens, who are consciously on our side. That is why we will win.”

The Supreme Court will make a final ruling on whether the ban will go into effect for the Greeks-National Party during a May 5 hearing.

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