Greece’s government prepares to submit legislation aimed at cutting funding to far-right nationalist party Golden Dawn, following the arrest of its leadership over the weekend.
Under legislation being submitted on Monday, state funding would be suspended for a party if any members of its leadership or MPs are being prosecuted for crimes. Funding would be suspended pending the outcome of any trial.
The legislation follows the arrest of Nikolaos Mihaloliakos, leader of the extremist movement, and other members of the party and MPs.
Democracy cannot fund its rivals. Greek Deputy Foreign Minister Evangelos Venizelos
In total, six Golden Dawn MPs, 14 members and two police officers were arrested and warrants have been issued for another 10 people – on charges of acting as a criminal organisation.
“Democracy cannot fund its rivals,” said Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Evangelos Venizelos. “Therefore when you have a criminal organisation which is operating inside a political party, there must be sanctions regarding funding.”
The government crackdown was sparked by the death of anti-fascist rapper Pavlos Fyssas, also known as Killah P. His fatal stabbing has been blamed on a Golden Dawn supporter.
It is the first time since Greece’s 1974 return to democracy, following a military dictatorship, that sitting members of the hellenic parliament have been arrested.
Golden Dawn has 18 seats in the Greek parliament, following an alarming surge in popularity in recent years.
The party has gone from relative obscurity, securing just 0.1 per cent of the vote in 1996, to 6.9 per cent of the vote in the most recent elections, in June 2012.
Golden Dawn’s popularity has increased over the last 12 months, but plummeted by 2.5 per cent following the death of Fyssas.
Under the legislation, MPs will retain their seats in parliament unless they are convicted or resign. Golden Dawn has hinted it could have all its MPs resign and leave the seats empty, in an attempt to trigger elections in their constituencies.
Mihaloliakos, and four other MPs will appear in court in Greece on Tuesday to face charges.
A report from a Supreme Court prosecutor into the group used for the prosecution of its top members lays out serious allegations against the party leadership, including involvement in murder, attempted murder, carrying out explosions, possessing explosives and robbery.