New Democracy, SYRIZA in war of words over Golden Dawn

An ongoing crackdown on Golden Dawn appears to have shifted the center of gravity in the confrontation between Greece’s ruling conservative New Democracy and the leftist SYRIZA opposition as both camps seek to capitalize on the apparent decline of the ultranationalist Golden Dawn.

The two parties on Friday exchanged a series of accusations following an interview of Alexis Tsipras by Euronews on Thursday in which the leftist leader said “the court ruling was not in line with the general sense of justice.”

His comments appeared to be a reaction to a court decision to release three Golden Dawn lawmakers from custody pending trial after they provided initial testimony in a criminal probe triggered by last month’s murder of an anti-fascist rapper.

However, government spokesman Simos Kedikoglou jumped on Tsipras’s remarks, suggesting that leftist officials were uncomfortable with recent developments and quoted Tsipras as saying that “the arrest of Golden Dawn leader Nikos Michaloliakos was not in line with the general sense of justice.”

In a statement Friday, SYRIZA accused Kedikoglou of twisting Tsipras’s comments while a second statement issued by the party likened the conservative official to Nazi minister of propaganda Joseph Goebbels.

Observers said Kedikoglou’s comments indicated that ND was sticking with its contentious “theory of the two extremes” which aims to discredit the center-left party by drawing parallels with Golden Dawn.

Speaking at the Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington on Wednesday, conservative Prime Minister Antonis Samaras said that after dismantling far-right extremism in Greece, his government should also deal with “the other extreme” that opposes the country’s membership of the EU and NATO.

“Equating leftist ideas with the ideas of Golden Dawn, as Samaras did in the US, is a huge blow to democracy,” SYRIZA’s parliamentary spokesman Panayiotis Lafazanis said Friday, warning of “unpredictable consequences” if ND did not change its tune.

Somewhat easing the tone Friday, Samaras said that the government had “crushed the neo-Nazis,” warning however against the perils of populism.

“In order to fight populism you must be sure that you do not yourself indulge in populism. In order to fight extremism, you must be sure that you do not yourself verge to the extremes,” the Greek premier said at a conference organized by the Hellenic Initiative in New York.