Golden Dawn threat to quit creates doubt

Greece may face the possibility of snap elections if Golden Dawn MPs resign en masse from Parliament, an option that party leader Nikos Michaloliakos refused to discount on Thursday.

Prime Minister Antonis Samaras may face the choice of having to choose between a series of by-elections or going to a national ballot if the far-right party’s 18 lawmakers quit their seats.

There would be a number of constitutional peculiarities involved if Golden Dawn walks out. Firstly, one of its MPs is from a state list, which means he has not been elected directly but has been awarded a seat in Parliament based on his party’s share of the national vote. Opinion is split on whether ballots would have to be held around the country to decide which party would gain this seat.

There would also have to be by-elections to replace the remaining MPs and Samaras fears this might be destabilizing for the country.

SYRIZA indicated on Thursday that it would aim to increase its presence in Parliament if by-elections are held and then push for general elections. “SYRIZA will turn these elections into a referendum on Nazism and the [EU-IMF] memorandum and into a stepping stone so that there can be national elections and a new parliamentary majority,” said leftist MP Dimitris Papadimoulis.

Michaloliakos refused to say if his party would quit but stressed that Golden Dawn could not be held responsible for the “political turmoil” that would follow such a move.

The predicament for Samaras came as the government was put on alert by a statement issued by the Association of Special Forces Reservists (KEED) on Wednesday. The group called for the government to resign and be replaced by a caretaker administration that would suspend any commitments Greece had under its bailout terms. The tone of the statement suggested a direct intervention in the democratic process but KEED issued a statement Thursday denying that it had any intention of encouraging a coup.

Nevertheless, the statement prompted an emergency meeting of ministry and judicial officials at the Supreme Court. Government spokesman Simos Kedikoglou described the issue as “troubling” but said that “the overwhelming majority of men in the armed forces are dedicated to democracy.”

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