A senior lawmaker from Greece’s far-right Golden Dawn party will run for the office of Athens mayor in May, in a show of defiance against a government crackdown that sent its leader to jail, pending trial.
Golden Dawn remains Greece’s third most popular party, drawing support for its anti-immigrant and anti-austerity agenda, even after the killing of an anti-fascist rapper by one of its supporters last year which prompted the crackdown.
“I will be a candidate for mayor of Athens, even from jail,” Golden Dawn lawmaker and spokesman Ilias Kasidiaris told party supporters at a central Athens hotel on Saturday night.
Kasidiaris is unlikely to win but a strong showing could add to pressure on the ruling two-party coalition, which is governing on a slim three-seat majority as voters are exhausted by years of austerity.
The stabbing of rapper Pavlos Fyssas in September, to which a Golden Dawn sympathizer has confessed, provoked protests across the country, a shake-up of the police and a broad investigation into the party.
That led to the arrest of its leader Nikos Michaloliakos and dozens more party officials. Golden Dawn members were charged on evidence linking the party with a string of attacks, including Fyssas’s stabbing and the killing of an immigrant.
Six of the party’s 18 lawmakers are in pretrial detention. They have called the investigation “a parody.” Kasidiaris was charged on what prosecutors said was evidence linking the party to a series of attacks. He was arrested last year and released pending trial. He denies any wrongdoing.
If elected, Kasidiaris said he would use deserted buildings in the capital, currently occupied by illegal immigrants, to house homeless Greeks.
Despite accusations of brutality, Golden Dawn has drawn on anger over the debt crisis, budget cuts, high unemployment and corruption.
Two opinion polls published in Sunday’s newspapers Proto Thema and Ethnos showed the party would get 8.9 to 10.3 percent of the vote, respectively, if elections were held now, ranking steadily in third place.
The same surveys by pollsters Alco and Metron Analysis, showed the anti-bailout leftist opposition SYRIZA party as the most popular single party, leading the conservatives in the ruling coalition by 0.7 to 1.2 percentage points. Parliamentary elections are due in 2016. [Reuters]