Imprisoned leader of Greece’s far-right party faces election ban

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — The Greek government is trying to bar a far-right political party led by a jailed former lawmaker from contesting general elections later this year, in a legislative move that has garnered bipartisan support .

Ilias Kasidiaris, 42, founded the Greek National Party two years ago. He is currently serving a 13-year-and-six-month sentence for membership in a criminal organization as a former leading member of Golden Dawn, a political party of neo-Nazi origin that has been linked to several violent street attacks.

Parliament released a bill on Friday that would bar Kasidiaris’ party from voting because its leader has been convicted of serious crimes and the party “would not serve the free functioning of (Greece’s) democratic constitution”.

Lawmakers are due to vote on the amendment on Tuesday.

Opposition parties support the ban, but the Communist Party of Greece has called the amendment’s criteria too broad and open to political abuse.

Golden Dawn sat in parliament between 2012 and 2019 after four consecutive elections held during a major financial crisis.

In 2020, a court convicted Kasidiaris and other members of the party leadership for leading a criminal organization that launched a violent campaign against migrants and ideological opponents.

“Democracies have a moral obligation to protect themselves from their enemies,” center-right Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis told members of his cabinet on Thursday.

“They cannot legitimize, let alone fund, organizations that openly work to undermine them.”

Ahead of general elections scheduled for April, opinion polls suggest the Greek National Party will cross the 3% threshold of the national vote needed to gain parliamentary representation.

In a phone message posted online from a prison in central Greece, Kasidiaris called the law change “undemocratic.”

Derek Gatopoulos, Associated Press


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