Greek lawmakers voted to cut off state funding to the far-right Golden Dawn party early on Wednesday morning (October 23), the latest effort by the government to clamp down on a party it has branded a "neo-Nazi criminal gang".
Golden Dawn had steadily risen on the back of an anti-austerity and anti-immigrant agenda to become Greece's third-most popular party, until the killing of a left-wing rapper by a party supporter last month triggered the government crackdown.
A legislative provision passed by 235 lawmakers in the 300-seat parliament suspends state funding to political parties if their leaders, or a tenth of their lawmakers, are charged with involvement in a "criminal organisation" or "acts of terrorism". The move could deprive Golden Dawn of a major financial resource.
After entering parliament last year and appearing virtually immune to frequent accusations of violence against immigrants and leftists, the party has been on the defensive since the fatal stabbing of 34-year-old Pavlos Fissas.
Golden Dawn's leader, Nikolaos Mihaloliakos, and two senior lawmakers have been put behind bars pending trial on charges of participation in a criminal group. Parliament has stripped four more MPs of their immunity to allow a deeper investigation into accusations against them.
If convicted, Golden Dawn lawmakers face a prison sentence of up to 10 years. If they are acquitted, the party will receive the state funds it is owed.
The party rejects accusations of violence and the neo-Nazi label. All six lawmakers who have been charged deny the allegations against them, saying they are being persecuted because of their nationalist beliefs.
Golden Dawn abstained from the vote and said the funding cut-off would only disrupt its community initiatives, such as "for-Greeks-only" food handouts and blood donations.
Presented by Adam Justice