Golden Dawn video scandal clouds Greek election campaigns
The battle to woo voters ahead of Greece's municipal and European parliamentary elections next month is in full swing.
The government had been talking up its economic achievements, including clinching an €8.3bn instalment from its international bailout and a possible return to the markets.
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However the news was quickly overshadowed by a recently-leaked video showing the close ties between the prime minister’s aide, Takis Baltakos, and the spokesman of the far-right Golden Dawn party.
The footage also revealed the government’s alleged intervention in the country's judiciary.
It led to Baltakos testifying before a prosecutor on Monday (7 April).
The judiciary is conducting an urgent investigation into whether publicising the video, which was the product of clandestine filming, violated privacy law.
The film shows a discussion, punctuated by expletives, in which Baltakos hints to Golden Dawn’s Ilias Kasdiaris that recent prosecutions against the party were politically motivated.
Following the disclosure, the aide, who was also secretary general of the government, resigned apologising for the “trouble he caused”.
“The investigator had no evidence. None,” Baltakos is heard saying in the video.
“[The Prime Minister] feared for himself because [Golden Dawn] is undercutting his lead over [opposition party] Syriza.”
The government denies any wrongdoing amid strong condemnation by left-wing opposition party Syriza.
The revelations have destabilised the country’s fragile coalition government, with the junior socialist party (Pasok) lawmakers openly voicing their anger.
While the conservative-led coalition administration, headed up by Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, has so far survived the crisis, there is speculation that further recordings may yet be revealed.
The Supreme Court prosecutor, for her part, has said anyone publicising videos filmed clandestinely should be arrested.
Meanwhile Samaras’ New Democracy, which leads the coalition government, has taken a hit in the polls.
Surveys conducted by polling companies show that ‘Baltakos-gate’, as the affair is known in social media, has had an effect on the political landscape ahead of the country’s European parliamentary elections.
Both the opposition leftist Syriza party and as well as Golden Dawn – whose popularity had recently withered – are benefitting.
Kappa Research showed that New Democracy lost its lead in the polls, falling from 21.7 percent before the Baltakos revelations, to 20.8 percent now.
Syriza’s rating rose from 19.6 percent to 21.5 percent while Golden Dawn’s went from 6.9 percent to 7.7 percent.
Meanwhile, research conducted by Metron Analysis also finds that the main beneficiaries over the revelations were Syriza and Golden Dawn.
Golden Dawn emerged from political obscurity in the 2012 elections garnering nearly 7 percent of the vote.
It quickly became the country’s third strongest political party. But the murder of a hiphop artist in September by a Golden Dawn supporter triggered an investigation into the party’s alleged criminal activities and the arrests and pre-trial detention of a third of its lawmakers.
The video revelations coincided with a parliamentary vote to lift the immunity from another five Golden Dawn lawmakers. The party says it is the victim of political persecution because of its popularity.