After arresting the leader, number two man and spokesman for the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party during a sweep of its members, Greek authorities are now moving to cut off state funding that political parties get if they serve in Parliament. Golden Dawn has 18 seats in the body but six now have been taken into custody, including chief Nikolaos Michaloliakos, on charges of running a criminal gang.
Under the legislation being submitted, state funding will be suspended for a party if any members of its leadership or lawmakers are being prosecuted for felonies. Six Golden Dawn lawmakers, 14 members and two police officers have been arrested, while arrest warrants have been issued for another 10 people.
The government crackdown was sparked by the Sept. 17 fatal stabbing of an anti-fascist hip-hop artist blamed on a Golden Dawn supporter. The arrests mark the first time since the 1974 restoration of democracy after a military dictatorship that sitting members of a Greek Parliament have been arrested.
“(The bill) will be submitted to parliament in a matter of days. It has symbolic and moral value,” Deputy Prime Minister Evangelos Venizelos told reporters, adding that it would align Greek legislation with European standards. “Democracy can’t fund its opponents,” he said.
Venizelos, the PASOK Socialist leader who is also Foreign Minister while serving in the coalition government led by Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, the New Democracy Conservative leader, had pushed for the law although he and Samaras agreed to block a law earlier this year that would have increased the penalties for hate crimes, said to be aimed at Golden Dawn.
Former Justice Minister Antonis Roupakiotis accused New Democracy of blocking the bill because he said Samaras did not want to alienate Golden Dawn voters, who he wanted to lure back to the Conservatives as the neo-Nazis were rising in power.