Last week, Greece’s far-right political party Golden Dawn made headlines around the world due to the Greek government’s response and handling of the party by arresting and charging their leader Nikos Michaloliakos and Golden Dawn MP’s and members for being a criminal organisation. The consequences and aftermath of that weekend’s arrests are slowly being revealed.
Victorian Labor MP John Pandazopoulos says he is not “convinced” by the way the Greek government have handled issues pertaining to the extreme far-right party and is not confident that this has been the best move by the Greek government.
“The way it’s been handled brings up big questions marks, and it falls into the traps of Xrysi Avgi,” Mr Pandazopoulos tells Neos Kosmos.
He says open dialogue about the party, debate on their policies and the consequences for the average Greek person if this party becomes politically powerful would be more beneficial than the arrests and legal proceedings that followed.
“It seems to be political rather than a considered response by the police to clamp down on extremism,” he says of the Greek government’s response, adding that he doesn’t believe this is the best “way to deal with [Golden Dawn]”.
“In the history of politics this has always been a wrong move – we saw it when they tried to shut down the communist party in Australia,” he says.
Federal Member for Calwell Maria Vamvakinou says she doesn’t believe the “Greek government acted frivolously” with their handling of Golden Dawn, adding that “there is a sigh of relief” in Greece and Australia that the government is responding to the Golden Dawn.
President of the Greek Orthodox Community of Melbourne and Victoria (GOCMV) Bill Papastergiadis adds that “from a global perspective, it has highlighted the Greek Government’s position in reining in this party”.
“[The Greek Government] have taken a firm stance in regards to this anti-immigration extreme right-wing party,” Mr Papastergiadis says.
Yet, Mr Pandazopoulos states a more considered approach to Golden Dawn would have been better.
“Greece has ‘hate laws’ – use those against the people that are involved,” he says. “Whether it’s a political party’s website with hate speeches written on it, or speeches given at rallies, that’s the way to deal with things.”
As for Australia, Ms Vamvakinou believes that this week’s events with Golden Dawn may see followers of the party reassess their association to the party.
“There might be people in Australia who are sympathetic to Golden Dawn, but they might be reviewing their opinion of this particular movement, as it’s now moved into alleged acts of violence,” she says.
“I can’t see too many people in the Greek community in Australia embracing organisations that not only have an aggressive narrative, but also encourage violence.”
“Golden Dawn are a living contradiction in Australia,” states Mr Pandazopoulos.
“The reason they can have their Greek nights and have Greek media is because we are living in a multicultural country, and to demand something different is very awkward for Greek Australia.”
The GOCMV released a statement condemning the act of violence and murder of Greek hip-hop and rap artist Pavlos Fyssas.
“Our press release is firm in relation to renouncing that particular act of violence, and, if there is a link to Golden Dawn, then the party needs to face the full force of the law.
“[Golden Dawn] doesn’t help itself with their strong stance against migration, multiculturalism and other views that we in Australia renounce categorically.”