Should Parliament approve a request by the magistrates investigating Golden Dawn to lift the immunity from prosecution of all the far-right party’s deputies, a slew of new dilemmas regarding the functioning of our democracy will inevitably come to the fore.
Of course the first issue at hand is building a case to support charges that the party constitutes a criminal organization and has been involved in criminal activities, something that is not as easy as it seems and will certainly take a lot of time.
The judicial authorities have the daunting task of proving beyond a shadow of doubt that the suspects have acted in a criminal manner.
They cannot base any part of their case on “evidence” regarding the party’s ideas and ideology, its public tirades and the symbols it uses.
A trial of ideas and intentions is not befitting of a democratic state, irrespective of how abhorrent these may be. Ideas are fought with ideas and evil politics with virtuous politics. Crimes, in turn, are dealt with by applying the law.
If, on the other hand, the response to the neo-Nazi phenomenon is limited to efforts to quash the party without harming it politically, there will likely be some very unpleasant complications. For example, May’s local elections could see a large number of votes going to Golden Dawn candidates who are currently in custody, which would in turn make heros of members of the party who are in fact criminals. This could then create some serious problems in the operation of Parliament, which would further harm the stature of the institution.
The crackdown on Golden Dawn came too late and now it is being hurried along. But because there are different objectives behind it, there is a risk of the philosophy that the end justifies the means prevailing and doing a lot more harm to the integrity of democracy.
The overwhelming majority of Greeks are disgusted by the racist hatred and intellectual crudeness of the blustering neo-Nazis, but these feelings and short-term political gain should not be used to substitute political rationalism, constitutional order, principles of justice and the moral core of democracy.
The democratic prosecutors and the prosecuted neo-Nazis do not share the same value system. Should the former stoop to the latter’s level, the short-term tactical gains will be nothing compared to the long-term losses.