Greek ultra-nationalist party Golden Dawn (Chrysi Avgi) is under the political microscope as several government ministers have debated outlawing the party. Prime Minister Antonis Samaras has discussed a possible ban but so far appears negative.
The election of Golden Dawn to parliament in June this year acted as a shock to the political world. From the beginning other political parties refused to work with them, but have witnessed the surging popularity of Golden Dawn amongst citizens, as their own political popularity wanes.
Golden Dawn is a legitimate political party protected under the Greek constitution, with current polls indicating it has more than 10 percent of the electoral vote. Digital Journal reported that former Greek Prime Minister Kostas Karamanlis said this weekend that "If we had elections tomorrow the Golden Dawn would get 20%."
Despite Golden Dawn's political legitimacy their presence in parliament has set off alarm bells across Greece and Europe. Many claim the party is Neo-Nazi, a charge the party denies. It also vehemently denies any links to a spate of racist violence that has seen immigrants attacked. The party has however been involved in a number of direct actions that prompted debate, including a vote by the parliamentary ethics committee.
To Vima reports that several government ministers have been discussing outlawing the party with Antonis Samaras. However, the prime minister is not in favour of a ban. Talk of outlawing the party is not new.
In May Digital Journal reported Moshe Kantor, President of the European Jewish Congress, called for a ban on European far-right groups, following Golden Dawn's first electoral victory and entrance to parliament.
Earlier this year the Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe, Nils Muiznieks, initiated an investigation into allegations of links between the Greek police and Golden Dawn. Now he has called on the Greek government to investigate if Golden Dawn should be outlawed.
Recently Alexandros Sakellariou, a sociologist and researcher at Panteion University in Athens, told theSET Times: "Golden Dawn does not have any legitimate place in the government, but it does have a legitimate place in the political arena from the moment it is a legitimate political party."
In a recent interview Alexis Tsipras, leader of the coalition of the extreme left, SYRIZA, told Athens News that Golden Dawn are "obviously being treated with tolerance by the police, the mass media and a broad swathe of the pro-memorandum front. This tolerant attitude must end. Whether these organisations are acting within the parameters of the law is for the courts to judge. On the other hand, the fact is that a substantial segment of the electorate chose an extreme answer to the crisis by voting for the neo-Nazi party, thinking that they were casting a so-called anti-system vote."
As ministers debate outlawing Golden Dawn To Vima reports several members of the cabinet have said: "It is not so easy to outlaw. A decision to outlaw will lead to more intense activism with unpredictable consequences."
Concerned about repeated reports of racist violence allegedly committed by members of Golden Dawn, Minister of Public Order Nikos Dendias has given orders for police to come up with a strategy to deal with the issue. According to RFI Golden Dawn headquarters and local branches are under observation from the security police, whilst related websites are under surveillance by the Cyber Crime Unit. These measures are intended to keep a tight control to limit actions by Golden Dawn, and to curb its influence.
Meanwhile Dendias has been tasked with dealing with many of the issues raised by Golden Dawn. The aim is to mitigate direct action by Golden Dawn by replacing it with a political solution. If the government is seen to be dealing with issues which have helped Golden Dawn win popularity, then the party is expected to limit its action and concentrate more on the parliamentary process.