Greece’s prime minister said Monday his government will do “whatever it takes” to completely eradicate the extreme-right Golden Dawn party, whose neo-Nazi leaders have just been arrested.
Antonis Samaras said the Greek people “are very smart” and are now seeing the party for what it really is.
“I believe that they will realize that they should not follow the party that has such extreme ideological positions and ideas,” he told a meeting in New York of AJC, the American Jewish Committee.
Samaras, in New York to attend the U.N. annual meeting of world leaders, added that he does not believe the party will return with greater popularity because its leaders will be viewed as victims or martyrs. Golden Dawn’s approach and thinking about politics is “so negative” and “so hideous … [and] so catastrophic to Greeks and Greece that I do not believe they might come back,” he said.
Golden Dawn, a formerly fringe nationalist group with neo-Nazi roots that started in the late 1980s, has enjoyed a meteoric rise in popularity during Greece’s financial crisis, which began about six years ago. They won 18 seats in the 300-member Parliament in the 2012 election.
Since the election, Golden Dawn has been blamed for numerous violent attacks. The party has been increasingly on the defensive since the Sept. 17 fatal stabbing of a left-wing Greek activist, blamed on a Golden Dawn supporter. Though the party has vehemently denied any role in the killing, it has appeared to dent its appeal among Greeks and apparently sparked the current government crackdown.
Several of the 100 invited guests at Samaras’ speech expressed concern at Golden Dawn’s anti-Semitic and fierce anti-immigrant stance, and the crowd loudly applauded his pledge to crack down on the party.
“We are dedicated [to] completely eradicating such a shame,” he said. “There is no room for the neo-Nazis in any part of the democratic world, and there is no tolerance for the neo-Nazis, or for any kind of extremism, undermining democratic institutions.”
On Saturday, police counter terrorism units started arresting key Golden Dawn leaders and by Monday, six lawmakers — including the party’s top two officials — 14 other members and two police officers with alleged sympathies had been arrested. Warrants have been issued for 10 more people.