The Greek Supreme Court Wednesday decided that the far-right Hellenes party will be barred from the upcoming election on May 21. In a nine to one decision, the court found that parties that are beyond the political spectrum, promote violence and don’t respect democracy or the rule of law are not welcome in elections.
The Hellenes party, also known as the Greeks party, has been a major source of controversy in Greece due to its links to neo-Nazi organizations. Party leader Ilias Kasidiaris called it “a sad day for Greece.” He went on to state that “democracy in Greece has been overthrown” as half a million of his supporters will not be able to vote for the party that they support.
The ban comes after the Greek Parliament issued a new law banning ex-convicts from leading political parties. Prior to Hellenes, Kasidiaris belonged to another Greek political party known as the Golden Dawn. The extremist group is known for its hardline anti-immigration stance and was recently linked to criminal organizations. In the prosecution against it, several leaders of the Golden Dawn were given jail sentences. Kasidiaris was among those convicted and was sentenced to 13 years prison on charges of running a criminal organization, weapon-trafficking, extortion and murder.
Many Greeks welcomed the Supreme Court’s decision as Hellene’s party was on the extreme right-wing, with even hardline conservatives condemning their policies. For the upcoming election, Hellenes’ platform consisted of anti-immigration, anti-Europe and pro-police policies. In the lead up to the election, Hellenes saw a spike in popularity because of how salient these issues for Greece, due to its massive debts to the EU, the ongoing refugee crisis, as well as high unemployment and crime rates. However, Hellenes remained generally unpopular as its leadership is mainly made up of old Golden Dawn members who split from the party. Many still see Hellenes as a puffed-up crime group trying to push its own agenda by manipulating conservative values to its favor.
The election is scheduled to occur on May 21. Hellenes is likely the only political party that the ruling will apply to, as no other parties are running on similar platforms with links to criminal organizations and neo-Nazism, like Hellenes.