ATHENS – With crucial municipal and European Parliament elections looming and its coalition support fading fast, Prime Minister Antonis Samaras’ New Democracy-led government said it will not allow Greeks living abroad, nor second-generation immigrants living legally in Greece, to vote or stand as candidates.
The move was made unilaterally and without debate through a legislative amendment submitted to Parliament by Interior Minister Yiannis Michelakis and effectively revokes a 2010 law named for his predecessor, Yiannis Ragousis, which extended voting rights to second-generation immigrants living in the country, and ethnic Greeks based abroad.
There was no indication whether the move was made out of fear that Greeks living abroad are disaffected by harsh austerity measures that have created record unemployment and deep poverty and would be opposed to the coalition, as might be immigrants who have been the target of assaults.
The move means that immigrants who were born in Greece, speak Greek, and attended Greek schools won’t be allowed to vote nor run for office. Greeks of the Diaspora have been talking fruitlessly for years with the Greek government about being allowed to vote in Greek elections.
Citizens of countries in the European Free Trade Area – Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland – who are legal residents in Greece are also revoked of their right to vote and to stand as a candidate in elections, according to the new legislation.
The government denied it had revoked the Ragousis Law and said it was only following a ruling by the Council of State last year that declared it unconstitutional.
That ruling said the Constitution grants the right to vote and stand as a candidate in elections to Greek citizens alone. That right cannot be extended to others unless there is a constitutional review, it said.
Samaras, whose election campaign in 2012 included an anti-immigrant platform, has seen his party fall behind the major opposition Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) which is opposed to the austerity measures the government has imposed on the orders of international lenders.
A story in the Financial Times also indicated that New Democracy is now falling further behind SYRIZA, which has taken a growing lead in recent polls and that the Conservatives may be fighting for second place in the EU elections with the ultra-right extremist Golden Dawn party whose leaders have been jailed or arrested on charges of running a criminal gang.
“The government wants to outlaw Golden Dawn, which would equal a destructive coup to the political system of Greece. National Dawn was created to represent the thousands of Greek patriots and to run in the elections if we get outlawed,” said Kasidiaris in the interview with FT.
“National Dawn’s list will include well-respected candidates, like retired armed forces generals, academics and doctors. They will receive strong support by the growing numbers of Greek nationalists,” he added.
“The government’s goal was to put me in jail before the elections, so that I wouldn’t be able to speak publicly,” said Kasidiaris, who took up the leadership of the party after the arrest of Nikos Michaloliakos a couple of months ago. He added, “I will continue to be a candidate, unless they pass a law depriving me of my civil rights.”
Golden Dawn wants Greece populated only by 100 percent Greeks and said it would deport immigrants and plant landmines on the borders to keep out others seeking to enter Greece for asylum or use the country to get to other EU countries.