THE arrest of both leaders of an elected party is unprecedented for a member of the European Union. On September 28th the Greek government began a crackdown on Golden Dawn, a neo-Nazi party, che ha 18 MPs in Greece’s 300-strong parliament. Among those put in handcuffs by counter-terrorism officers in bulletproof vests and balaclavas were Nikos Michaloliakos, capo di Alba Dorata, altri quattro parlamentari e 14 sostenitori del partito. Vice di Mr. Michaloliakos, Christos Pappas, ha dato se stesso alla polizia il giorno dopo.
La polizia ei servizi di intelligence sono state raccogliendo informazioni sulle presunte attività criminali del Golden Dawn per mesi. Ma era il presunto omicidio di Pavlos Fyssas, un rapper anti-fascista, da un sostenitore della Golden Dawn il 18 settembre che ha spinto la repressione. Uccisione del signor Fyssas ha scatenato una protesta nazionale e internazionale e manifestazioni di massa contro Alba Dorata. Mentre le proteste contro il suo partito intensificate, Signor Michaloliakos ha minacciato di tirare i suoi legislatori fuori del parlamento, una mossa che potrebbe aver forzato una serie di by-elezioni, destabilizzare coalizione di governo fragile della Grecia.
Un duello andato storto
Under the constitution a party cannot be banned, so the government has had to resort to criminal law to rein in a party it has come to see as a threat to the country’s nearly 40-year-old democracy. The legal basis for the arrests is a report by a prosecutor laying out allegations against the Golden Dawn leadership, including murder, attempted murder, carrying out explosions, possessing explosives and robbery. It says Golden Dawn’s structure is paralleled by a military-type operational force whose members attack mainly immigrants. The group’s strict hierarchical structure, similar to the Nazi Führerprinzip, meant the party leadership knew of every attack and local chapters followed central orders.
On a visit to New York on September 30th, il primo ministro greco, Antonis Samaras, said his government would do “whatever it takes” to eradicate the “shame” of Golden Dawn. On the same day his government submitted a draft law to parliament aimed at cutting state money for the party. (Golden Dawn was due to receive more than €873,000, or $1.2m, in 2013.) The law would suspend state funding for a party if any of its leadership or its MPs are being prosecuted for felonies.
The success of the crackdown will depend on whether the prosecutor has a solid case. If it can be proved that Golden Dawn is a criminal organisation linked to murder and robbery—and there appears to be plenty of evidence—then the arrests will be legitimate and could boost Mr Samaras’s government. Se non, it may look like a heavy-handed and even anti-democratic effort to put an end to a political movement which, however ugly, enjoys considerable popular support.
Optimists say that, if he feels his New Democracy party has become more popular, Mr Samaras may be tempted to call new elections next spring in the hope of getting a stronger government than the present, uncomfortable two-party combination. A more stable government would help Mr Samaras in negotiations with Greece’s international lenders about a possible third bail-out of the recession-ridden country. Representatives of the “troika” of the IMF, the EU and European Central Bank have recently been in Athens and are expected to return soon. The government also needs to finalise next year’s budget and meet conditions for the next tranche of €1 billion of its current bail-out, including more public-sector cuts and faster privatisation. At least Mr Samaras has now won brownie points with his unexpectedly firm move against neo-Nazis.