Crackdown on Golden Dawn: Michaloliakos charged with belonging to a criminal organisation

Party leader, Nikolaos Michaloliakos, was arrested yesterday together with four more Golden Dawn MPs and 15 party members in an unprecedented crackdown on Greece's far-right party

The leader of Greece’s far-right Golden Dawn party, Nikolaos Michaloliakos, has been formally charged with belonging to a criminal organisation. Michaloliakos was arrested yesterday together with four more Golden Dawn MPs and 15 party members. Police have said they found weapons, ammunition and thousands of euros cash at Michaeloliakos’s home.

The Golden Dawn arrests followed public demonstrations over the stabbing of Pavlos Fyssas, an anti-racist rapper, on 18 September. The man held for the stabbing said he was a member of Golden Dawn, something the party has denied. Yesterday, a public prosecutor accused the far-rightists of murder, extortion and money laundering.

These arrests mark an unprecedented crackdown on the far-right group that has long been accused of violence against immigrants and leftist political opponents, including an attack on Communist Party members earlier this month that hospitalised nine people. The arrests were welcomed as "a historic day for Greece and Europe" by the public order minister, Nikos Dendias.

The ultimate test, however, will be how the courts now respond. This isn’t the first time leading Golden Dawn members have been charged over violence, but as New Statesman’s Yiannis Baboulias reports, Greek’s judicial system has consistently failed to prosecute party members and has neglected to protect witnesses from intimidation.

Golden Dawn currently has 18 MPs in Greece’s parliament, and their MPs won’t lose their seats or political rights until a final court ruling is heard on their cases. This Friday, however, Golden Dawn threatened to pull its 18 MPs out of parliament, which would spark by-elections.

 

Golden Dawn party members staging a demonstration outside their party HQ. Photo: Getty.

Sophie McBain is a freelance writer based in Cairo. She was previously an assistant editor at the New Statesman.

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François Fillon's woes are good news for Marine Le Pen and Emmanuel Macron

It is too late for the Republicans to replace their scandal-tainted candidate.

It's that time of the week again: this week's Le Canard Enchaîné has more bad news for François Fillon, the beleagured centre-right candidate for the French presidency. This week's allegations: that he was paid $50,000 to organise a meeting between the head of the French oil company Total and Vladimir Putin.

The story isn't quite as scandalous as the ones that came before it: the fee was paid to Fillon's (legitimate) consultancy business but another week with a scandal about Fillon and money is good news for both Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen.

The bad news for the Republicans is that Fillon is on the ballot now: there is no getting off the train that they are on. Destination: blowing an election that was theirs to be won.

Who'll be the ultimate beneficiary of the centre-right's misery? Although Macron is in the box seat as far as the presidential race is concerned, that he hasn't been in frontline politics all that long means that he could still come unstuck. As his uncertain performance in the first debate showed he is more vulnerable than he looks, though that the polls defied the pundits - both in Britain and in France - and declared him the winner shows that his popularity and charisma means that he has a handy cushion to fall back on.

It looks all-but-certain that it will be Macron and Le Pen who face each other in the second round in May and Macron will be the overwhelming favourite in that contest.

It's still just about possible to envisage a perfect storm for Le Pen where Fillon declares that the choice between Macron and Le Pen is a much of a muchness as neither can equal his transformative programme for France, Macron makes some 11th-hour blunder which keeps his voters at home and a terrorist attack or a riot gets the National Front's voters fired up and to the polling stations for the second round.

But while it's possible he could still come unstuck, it looks likely that despite everything we've thought these last three years, the French presidency won't swing back to the right in 2017.

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.