Greek government, opposition back proposal to cut funding to Golden Dawn

Lawmakers from the governing coalition and the main left-wing opposition SYRIZA on Thursday agreed to back a proposal to suspend state funding to parties whose leader or deputies are accused of serious crimes, another step toward reining in the activities of the ultra-right Golden Dawn party, which is the subject of a broadening criminal investigation.

The bill has attracted broader support than any other piece of legislation drawn up by the current government. Apart from clinching the backing of SYRIZA, the government’s legislative proposal was also backed by Democratic Left, which quit the coalition in June, with the Communist Party (KKE) and the anti-bailout Independent Greeks saying they would not actively oppose the bill but vote “present” when a ballot is held in Parliament on Tuesday. The vote had been scheduled for Thursday but was put off to allow the legislation to be finalized and deputies to have their say.

Interior Minister Yannis Michelakis made several changes to the initial draft following objections by opposition party officials. One of the most significant amendments stipulated that funding would be cut off to political parties in the case of offenses alleged to have been committed “in the context of party activities or in the name of the party.”

The minister emphasized the importance of a common stance by parties in Parliament “when the smooth functioning of democracy is at stake.” “The struggle must be a joint one,” he said.

SYRIZA spokesman Dimitris Papadimoulis said his party would support the bill due to the importance of “the political symbolism and the political message that it sends out.” But he reiterated SYRIZA’s insistence that any proposal to suspend a party’s funding should first secure the approval of an enhanced majority of 180 in the 300-seat Parliament.

It remained unclear whether the bill would mention Golden Dawn by name, something that leftists have demanded to ensure that deputies from their own ranks are not subsequently targeted. Government officials insisted that there were no secret plans to target leftists. But the head of KKE’s parliamentary group, Aleka Papariga, was defiant. “The reassurances do not convince us,” she said. “We can’t trust any government.”

As police and judicial investigations into Golden Dawn widen, two special magistrates were appointed to the case. Ioanna Klapa and Maria Dimitropoulou are expected to start drawing up charge sheets in the coming days against three GD lawmakers – Giorgos Germenis, Panayiotis Iliopoulos and Stathis Boukouras – who face charges of belonging to a criminal organization.

Another six GD lawmakers, including party leader Nikos Michaloliakos, were arrested last month on the same charges. Michaloliakos and two other MPs remain in pretrial custody while the other three of the six arrested last month were granted conditional release.