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May Elections: Greece Blocks Participation of Neo-Nazi Party

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The Greek Supreme Court has ruled that the far-right Greeks party will be banned from participating in the upcoming elections next month, and has approved the legal amendments introduced by lawmakers.

Amendments adopted by parliament in February exclude parties led by politicians convicted of serious crimes or offenses that “do not serve the free action of the (Greek) democratic constitution”.

Imprisoned former MP Ilias Kasidiaris and his Greek party are not allowed to participate in the May 21 elections under these terms. The ban, widely supported by Greece’s main political parties, was upheld despite the 11th hour change in the leadership of the Greek party.

He was among several high-profile Golden Dawn members sentenced to prison in October 2020 by a court that described the neo-Nazi party as a criminal organization.

The legal source said the judges deemed Helens “a continuation of the Golden Dawn.”

Greek government spokesman Akis Skirtsos welcomed what he called a “historic decision” that would prevent “enemies of democracy” from sitting in parliament.

“It is our common duty to protect democracy,” he added.

Vasou Pantazi, Kasidiaris’ lawyer, denounced the ruling, saying that “half a million Greeks” are disenfranchised for the party of their choice.

Banning a party from Greek elections is believed to be the first since democracy was restored in 1974 after seven years of military dictatorship.

Another small right-wing party, EAN, obtained permission from the court to contest the election.

Far-right fears

Kasidiaris was among nearly 60 Golden Dawn members convicted in 2020 of murdering anti-fascist rapper Pavlos Fyssas and other offenses including murder, assault, and running a criminal organization.

The hot-tempered former food scientist – who was a lawmaker from 2012 to 2019 – has been sentenced to 13.5 years in prison.

He is a fan of the Third Reich and has a tattoo of a swastika on his left arm. He once slapped a Communist legislator on TV.

Imprisonment did not prevent him from inviting his supporters through voice messages from prison and running a YouTube channel with more than 120,000 followers.

The 42-year-old had recently announced his ambition to run for a constituency in central Athens in this month’s elections.

In February, parliament amended the 2021 election law stating that no political party can vote if its leadership – formal or informal – has been found guilty of belonging to a criminal organisation.

The final decision is ultimately up to the Supreme Court.

Before the verdict, Kasidiaris denounced an “unimaginable coup against democracy” by those trying to deprive the “hundreds of thousands of voters” who support his party a voice.

Golden Dawn’s popularity peaked at the height of Greece’s financial crisis, alarming European partners.

The group was gaining 10 percent at one point in 2013, making it the third most popular party.

It failed to win a single seat in the last parliamentary elections in 2019, after which Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis sought to avoid a neo-Nazi return to the legislature.

According to an OpenTV poll on Friday, Helens would win four percent of the vote in the election, meeting the three percent threshold needed to sit in parliament.

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