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New Democracy, SYRIZA Spar Over Golden Dawn

Golden Down crimesHow to handle the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party, whose hierarchy has been arrested on charges of running a criminal gang has pitted the ruling New Democracy Conservatives against their rival, the major opposition party Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) once again.
Both parties are trying to position themselves as the champions against the extremists, although New Democracy leader, Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, is trying to scramble after going soft on the party for 15 months and setting aside a bill earlier this year that would have increased the penalties for hate crimes.
After the killing of a 34-year-old anti-fascist, for which a member of Golden Dawn was arrested, he has reintroduced it and directed police to start rounding up party suspects.
The two parties exchanged a series of accusations following an interview with SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras by Euronews in which the leftist leader said “the court ruling was not in line with the general sense of justice,” referring to the temporary release of three Golden Dawn MP’s who were among 32 people arrested.
Government spokesman Simos Kedikoglou jumped on Tsipras’s remarks, suggesting that leftist officials were uncomfortable with recent developments and quoted Tsipras as saying that “the arrest of Golden Dawn leader Nikos Michaloliakos was not in line with the general sense of justice.”
In a statement, SYRIZA accused Kedikoglou of twisting Tsipras’s comments while a second statement issued by the party likened the conservative official to Nazi Minister of Propaganda Joseph Goebbels as the tension between the parties intensified after they initially seemed to be heading toward working together to put a stranglehold on Golden Dawn.
Observers said Kedikoglou’s comments indicated that ND was sticking with its contentious “theory of the two extremes” which aims to discredit the center-left party by drawing parallels with Golden Dawn.
Speaking at the Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington earlier in the week, Samaras said that after ridding Greece of far-right extremism in Greece, his government should also deal with “the other extreme” that opposes the country’s membership of the EU and NATO, a shot at SYRIZA.
A former Justice Minister, however, Antonis Roupakiotis, who served in Samaras’ government, said that the Premier had been going easy on Golden Dawn in a bid to woo some of its voters as the party was rising in power.
“Equating leftist ideas with the ideas of Golden Dawn, as Samaras did in the US, is a huge blow to democracy,” SYRIZA’s parliamentary spokesman Panayiotis Lafazanis said, warning of “unpredictable consequences” if ND did not change its tune. New Democracy had previously suggested that SYRIZA was egging on anarchists to attack the government.
Somewhat easing the tone, Samaras said that the government had “crushed the neo-Nazis,” warning however against the perils of populism.
“In order to fight populism you must be sure that you do not yourself indulge in populism. In order to fight extremism, you must be sure that you do not yourself verge to the extremes,” he said at a conference organized by the Hellenic Initiative in New York.

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