ATHENS, Greece -- Greece’s parliament has banned a far-right political party led by a jailed former lawmaker from participating in the general election later this year.
Parliament published the text of a legislative amendment Thursday that will disqualify the Greek National Party on the grounds that its leader has been convicted of a serious criminal offense. Lawmakers approved the amendment late Wednesday.
Ilias Kasidiaris, who founded the breakaway party two years ago, is serving 13-year prison sentence for membership in and being a former leading member of Golden Dawn, a political party of neo-Nazi origins.
A court in 2020 designated Golden Dawn as a criminal organization for waging a campaign of violence against migrants and ideological opponents. Kasidiaris and other members of the Golden Dawn leadership were jailed as a result of the ruling.
Public Order Minister Takis Theodorikakos told state-run television Thursday that banning the Greek National Party was appropriate.
“The Government did the right thing by responding to a demand from a vast majority of Greek citizens: to exclude a party led by a convicted member of a criminal organization.”
Elections are expected in April with the governing center-right New Democracy party leading but unlikely to gain an outright majority, opinion polls suggest. The likely stalemate is expected to trigger a repeat election the following month, when a new election law takes effect.
Recent polls suggest the Greek National Party would cross the threshold of 3% of the national vote needed to gain parliamentary representation.
The party on Thursday described the vote in parliament as a violation of the constitution and voters' rights, and vowed to set up its own unofficial ballot boxes on election day.
Golden Dawn — a party that held torch-lit rallies and included senior members who openly backed violence against migrants — was represented in parliament between 2012 and 2019 following four consecutive elections held during a major financial crisis.
During Wednesday's debate, lawmakers from the Greek Communist Party said they opposed the amendment, arguing that it could be misused to ban political activism in general.
A small right-wing opposition party in parliament, Hellenic Solution, also opposed the legislative initiative, describing it as unconstitutional.