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Greece Moves to Ban Neo-Nazi Party From Polls

Greek lawmakers are set to vote on urgent legislation introduced by the government in Athens to ban neo-Nazi parties from competing in upcoming national elections in May. The move comes after an imprisoned neo-Nazi set up – from behind bars – a political party that is gaining popular support ahead of the polls.

Greek Justice Minister Makis Voridis submitted the legislation to parliament, billing it as unprecedented and part of the government’s drive to protect democracy in the birthplace of democracy.

With this bill, he said, it is the first time in history that Greek members of parliament are asking the entire bench of the Supreme Court to weigh the credentials of a party and its members to compete in elections.

The move comes just weeks after Greek lawmakers voted to ban Ilias Kasidiaris, a leading member of the now defunct Golden Dawn party, from competing in the May 21 polls.

Kasidiaris is among 60 neo-Nazi members and politicians serving stiff sentences for targeting migrants, homosexuals, and left-wing political activists at the height of Golden Dawn’s activities from 2012 to 2019.

His imprisonment has not stopped him from being vocal. From prison, he has set up a political party called The Greeks – and a YouTube channel with over 120,000 followers.

Despite efforts by lawmakers and the ruling conservative party to ban him from running in the May polls, Kasidiaris has in recent days stepped down, naming instead a former Supreme Court prosecutor with a clean criminal record to lead the party in the upcoming elections.

With disaffection growing among Greeks for the country’s ruling conservatives and mainstream political parties, polls show Kasidiaris’ party has substantial voter support – about 3 percent – enough to win entry to the Greek parliament.

For ruling conservatives facing plummeting polls, Kasidiari’s party poses a serious threat to their re-election.

But Monday’s bid by the government to introduce stiffer legislation has sparked a heated national debate. The main leftist Syriza party has said it will abstain from Tuesday’s final vote and legal experts highlight fears of a brewing backlash they say will only galvanize the support of Kasidiari’s far-right party.

According to Costas Botopoulos, a professor of constitutional law in Athens, safeguarding democracy means safeguarding the spirit of the constitution. Here, the letter of the law is clear, he said. It does not forbid parties to compete on grounds of the ideology they uphold, but rather the members that make them up and whether they have criminal records.

The Greek party has vowed to contest any attempt to silence it.

Source : VOA