Tuesday, 24 September 2013

An Early Sunset for Golden Dawn?

In the five days that have elapsed since the politically-motivated killing of musician Pavlos Fyssas in Athens, the conservative-led government has pursued the far-right Golden Dawn party legally and politically.

Golden Dawn member Yiorgos Roupakias has confessed to the killing and has been charged with murder and illegal weapons possession. Eye witnesses say police were present at the time of the killing and may have witnessed it, but questions remain as to why they failed to stop it.

Yesterday the public order ministry announced that it was suspending seven top police commanders in Athens pending a full investigation into press allegations of Golden Dawn sympathies and collaboration in the force.

At the same time, five police commanders have been either withdrawn or have resigned in central and southern Greece following reports that they failed to investigate a Golden Dawn weapons cache a few hundred yards from the police station in the town of Halkida, on the island of Evoia, 100km northeast of Athens.

The suspicion of strong Golden Dawn sympathy among security forces is not new. National weekly newspaper To Vima has repeatedly published an analysis of 11 ballot boxes in voting centres around Athens police headquarters, where hundreds of police are registered to vote. The newspaper found that the vote for Golden Dawn in those boxes was between 17.2 and 23 percent, compared to a range of five-to-seven percent in neighbouring voting centres.

Political Pursuit 

The government has announced that it is looking into a legal amendment that would stop state financing to parties running paramilitary organisations or with criminal indictments hanging over them. Only Golden Dawn answers this description. The party has already received three quarters of its 1.6mn euro allocation for this year.

There are 32 pending indictments against Golden Dawn members, which supreme court deputy prosecutor Haralambos Vourliotis is now examining. He is also reportedly looking into prosecuting Golden Dawn as a criminal organisation. To do so he would have to prove that attacks like that on Fyssas were not spontaneous initiatives but centrally directed.

Greek media are now reporting that the government will table a discussion in parliament on how to deal with the resurgence of fascism. The government evidently sees an opportunity to emasculate a party that took 6.9 percent of the right wing vote last June, and until recently enjoyed approval ratings of up to 13 percent. 

An opinion poll published yesterday by Eleftheros Typos, the conservative party's unofficial mouthpiece, found that three quarters three quarters of Greeks believe Golden Dawn to be a threat to democracy, to organise violence and to have been connected to the killing of Fyssas - something Roupakias reportedly denies. 

If the government succeeds in cutting off state funds to Golden Dawn, putting a number of its operatives in prison and crippling it by indicting a broad swath of its commanders, it will have dealt a blow many Greeks and immigrants feel was long overdue. Golden Dawn gangs are suspected of being behind hundreds of late night attacks on migrants in the past two years. Their outbursts and rants in parliament have set a new low watermark for the standard of debate in the chamber.  

The government may also consider bringing to the floor of parliament an anti-racism bill former justice minister Antonis Roupakiotis drafted last May. The bill was never presented to parliament because the government feared that most conservative MPs would vote against it. 

See also Yiorgos Lambropoulos' article on how Golden Dawn is structured.

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