The Parliament in Greece will debate an amendment to the law aimed at banning a neo-Nazi party from running in the elections expected to be held after April.
Ellines, a party led by Ilias Kasidiaris, a former leader of the notorious Golden Dawn party, is currently on the margin of the 3 percent threshold to be represented in the next parliament, according to several recent opinion polls.
In October 2020, Kasisiaris was convicted of directing a criminal organization and sentenced to 13 years in prison, allegations for which he maintains his innocence.
The amendment tabled in Parliament does not mention Kasidiaris, but sets out conditions that in effect exclude candidates who have been sentenced for serious crimes.
The conditions include the provision that every party running independently or within a coalition must have been founded legally, and its top officials and managing committee members must not have received sentences for criminal acts, either in civil or military courts.
In addition, the amendment clarifies that the candidates actually elected must exercise power themselves, instead of the true power in a party being exercised by someone behind the scenes.
Specifically, it cautions this “in the sense that another individual – other than the person officially holding the position of president, general secretary, member of the managing committee, or a legal representative – appears through specific actions to exercise the management of the party, or to have placed a proxy leadership, or to have the leading political position in terms of the electorate.”
The amendment, which is expected to be debated and voted on in the plenary session on Tuesday, also includes the obligation that “the organization and action of a party serve the free operation of democratic rule,” and in this respect takes into account any past sentencing of deputies, founding members, or former presidents for earlier crimes.
Criminals should be banned from elections in Greece
Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis welcomed the amendment. “As of now,” tweeted Mitsotakis, “groups whose actual leader is someone who is a criminal will not be able to participate in the electoral process.”
The premier added that “this will obviously be judged by the country’s Supreme Court, which – according to the constitution – is tasked with announcing the candidate parties.”
The prime minister also emphasized that it is “a very important provision for the protection of democracy from criminal organizations and individuals. A provision similar to one (is) already in effect in several European countries, and aims to protect normalcy and constitutional freedoms.”
Opposition says amendment should only target neo-Nazis in Greece
Opposition parties have expressed reservations about the amendment claiming that the conditions imposed are too generic.
In a statement, main opposition SYRIZA says that the amendment is “impermissibly broad and allows wide margins of discretion to the judicial body that will judge that a party does not serve the free functioning of the democratic state to be able to run in the elections,” it said.
The party also claimed that the vague and apparently neutral wording of the provision indicates that it is not directed exclusively at convicted neo-Nazis and leaves room for dangerous and ahistorical misinterpretations by invoking the theory of the two extremes.
“The legislative proposal should be clear about neo-Nazis and not open a back door for expanded interpretations and equating Nazism with any other political ideology,” it warned.