An amendment filed by Interior Minister Makis Voridis trying to prevent the re-entry of neo-Nazis in the Greek Parliament created controversy when a higher judge at the Supreme Court criticized the proposed legislation and opposition parties condemned the government’s handling of the issue on Sunday.
Judge Christos Tzanerikos, Supreme Court vice-president and president of the court’s Section A1 – that will be called upon to rule on whether an incarcerated neo-Nazi can run for Parliament from jail – called the amendment “an unprecedented […] and direct intervention in the operation of the Supreme Court.” In a statement, he also said that the amendment’s “ostensible reasoning” of supporting and defending any Supreme Court decision so it would not be cast in doubt expresses “the distrust and lack of confidence in my person on behalf of the government, which made the related legislative initiative.”
Voridis responded that in governments ruling in democracies, the act of legislating belongs to Parliament. He added that “the government’s legislative initiative protects the decision of justice, whatever that is.”
The minister’s statement said, among others, “The government respects the independence of justice and does not clash with it. We underline that in an upcoming judgment of major significance that relates to the participation in elections of parties that are founded by or have candidate members or real leaders individuals sentenced for the crime of leading a criminal organization, the government’s stance is simple: more oversight, a more autoritative judgment, without exempting any judge from the relevant section.”
He said the composition of Section A1 “is a given and is not affected by the government’s legislative initiative in the least. In any case, it is self-evident that in democratic rules of government, legislating is at the discretion of the Parliament, not a choice of any judge.”
The government has been trying to close loopholes that would allow neo-Nazi Ilias Kassidiaris, a former deputy and prominent member of the Golden Dawn group that was outlawed as a criminal organization, to run for Parliament from jail.
Opposition parties condemned the government after the judge’s statement, with SYRIZA-Progressive Alliance and PASOK-Movement for Change (KINAL) each saying that if their proposals had been adopted by the government, there would have been no controversy.
Main opposition SYRIZA accused ruling New Democracy of having voted, with PASOK-KINAL, “for an amendment that proved to be a fiasco, now coming to amend its mistake by compounding it with another.” It said that “the only thing that [Prime Minister Kyriakos] Mitsotakis has succeeded in doing with these constitutional acrobatics is to show antisystemic features and raising the percentages of the far-right. He did not listen to us when we warned him and he rejected the amendment we had tabled that comprised the only solution to exclude the neo-Nazi. In this parody, he should now assume the responsibility himself.”
PASOK-KINAL on the other hand said that “If our proposal for tabling the issue with the plenary of the Supreme Court had been listened to, we would not have reached the present unfortunate developments. The new, unilateral and cursory legislative regulation of the government would not have been necessary.”
The party added that it is deeply committed to fighting neo-Nazism, “which the government of New Democracy watched inert for two years” as its followers set up an electoral campaign within jail,” and would fight to ensure that the neo-Nazi group does not gain any seat in Parliament.