28 Sep 2013

Golden Dawn arrests fuel political crisis in Greece

This is a pivotal moment for Greece which could see the end of the coalition government itself, if elected Golden Dawn MPs are forced to stand down.

Members of the extreme-right Golden Dawn party stand around a stage and chant the National anthem during a gathering on May 26, 2013 in Athens, Greece.

The arrests of the Golden Dawn leader and two MPs is a pivotal moment for Greece. Since the election in June 2012 the coalition government has tried to balance between what it calls “the two extremisms” – of the far right and far left. It promised to crack down on both but did very little against Golden Dawn.

Meanwhile anti-fascist demonstrators complained of beatings and abuse by police who proclaimed sympathy with Golden Dawn.

Before this morning’s mass arrests the Greek government accepted the resignation of two police chiefs, two intelligence officers and re-assigned eight critical commanders in the police force – all without explanation.

So this has to be read as clear-out of the police as well as a crackdown on the neo-Nazis.

A senior government MP told me last year “we will solve the Golden Dawn problem by getting an immigration system that works”. Since then the state has been very tough on migrants – but Golden Dawn did not go away.

So now there’s an unprecedented situation for a signatory to the EU’s Copenhagen Treaty: a legal and elected party is effectively under investigation for organised crime and murder.

And if any of Golden Dawn’s 18 MPs are forced to stand down there would have to be new elections in their electoral regions – under the PR system – which could bring an end to the coalition government itself.