In the last few days, the Greek government and main opposition SYRIZA have submitted their proposals for blocking Ellines – the party formed by Ilias Kasidiaris, a former top official of neo-Nazi Golden Dawn convicted of directing a criminal organization – from running in the upcoming general elections.
A common feature of both proposals is that they would allow the Supreme Court to exclude from the elections not only parties that include as members people convicted – even at first instance – of running or participating in a criminal organization, but also any party whose organization and actions do not “serve the free functioning of democratic government” (as stated in Article 29, Paragraph 1 of the Greek Constitution). The most important difference between the two proposals lies in the fact that SYRIZA’s plan stipulates that for a party to be excluded, it should also necessarily meet the criterion of racist and/or Nazi speech, while New Democracy’s proposal leaves the matter undefined.
The advantage of assigning the abovementioned decision to the Supreme Court is obvious: In the future, it will be possible to exclude not only the party of Kasidiaris, but also any party fronted by Kasidiaris’ straw men. This is an advantage that would not be achieved if the amendment was limited to excluding parties with convicted individuals in their list.
However, the disadvantage of both proposals is in my opinion infinitely more important: They would allow the Supreme Court to be able to exclude from the elections even innocent political groupings, without citing any serious evidence. It would be enough for a police or intelligence report to describe those parties as “subversive,” or even “racist” or “pro-Nazi,” according to SYRIZA’s proposal. Under what criteria would the First Section of the Supreme Court, under suffocating time pressure, exclude, let’s say, “Silver Dawn” from the elections, whose statute would state that it would respect the Constitution, and not a party like the Communist Party of Greece, whose statute still states that it seeks to impose “a dictatorship of the proletariat”?
To prevent mistakes that may prove fatal, proposals must exclude any criteria that would allow the Supreme Court to assess whether a party will participate in the elections
Even the criterion of the use of violence, which could be cited to ban a party, is in my opinion dangerous if it is not preceded by a judicial ruling. In other words, in order to prevent mistakes that may prove fatal, the proposals must exclude any criteria that would leave room for the Supreme Court to assess whether a political grouping will be allowed to participate in the elections.
Based on the above rationale, let me insist on the simplest possible solution: When the Supreme Court announces which parties will run, it should limit itself to declaring that the two legal conditions provided for today (Greek citizenship and a minimum age of the candidates) are met, and simply add a third – i.e. a non-conviction, even at a first instance court, of directing or participating in a criminal organization (Articles 187 and 187A of the Penal Code).
It would then be sufficient to replace the sentence “The president, the general secretary, the members of the governing committee and the legal representative have not been convicted…” found in case b) of Paragraph 1 of Article 32 of the current electoral law (26/2012) by the words “any parliamentary candidate who has not been convicted…”
Nikos Alivizatos is emeritus professor of law at the Faculty of Law of the University of Athens.