The debate leading up to Friday’s confidence vote got under way in Parliament on Wednesday, with New Democracy and SYRIZA attacking each other straight from the opening exchanges.
“The opposition did not engage in constructive criticism over the past two years,” said Health Minister Makis Voridis, who opened the discussion due to Premier Antonis Samaras being at a European Union leaders’ summit. “I remind you of the swearing, the threats, the terrorizing and the nooses when the coalition MPs were trying to keep the country standing.”
Voridis also accused SYRIZA of engaging in “hate speech,” which stoked political tension and, according to the minister, played a part in the murder of rapper Pavlos Fyssas by a Golden Dawn member and the assassination of two members of the neo-Nazi party, Argyris Kapelonis and Giorgos Fountoulis.
His comments prompted an immediate response from SYRIZA’s opening speaker, economic spokesman Yiannis Dragasakis.
“Isn’t Mr Samaras the architect of the theory of the two extremes?” he asked. “And who was it that was in contact with the criminal organization [Golden Dawn]?” he added in reference to the revelations earlier this year that the prime minister’s former aide Panayiotis Baltakos had a secret meeting with Golden Dawn spokesman Ilias Kasidiaris.
Dragasakis then accused the government of succumbing to pressure from businessmen to change laws.
“Today it just takes a powerful businessman, a major publisher, sometimes even a medium-sized publisher, a shipowner, a friend of the prime minister to call up and have a law abolished or a fine scrapped,” said the SYRIZA lawmaker.
State Minister Dimitris Stamatis challenged Dragasakis to provide some examples to back up his allegations.
“Of course we will name names but I am not ready to do so now,” said the opposition MP. “I will decide when to do so. Until then, check the amendments that were made by Mr Baltakos and after that we can speak again.”
Golden Dawn leader Nikos Michaloliakos and another five extreme-right lawmakers who are in pretrial custody are to lodge appeals with the Greek judicial system and the European Court of Human Rights after a prosecutor rejected their requests to appear in Parliament ahead of Friday night’s vote of confidence in the government.
Apart from Michaloliakos, requests were made by the party’s second-in-command Christos Pappas, spokesman Kasidiaris, the MPs Nikos Michos and Panagiotis Iliopoulos, as well as Stathis Boukouras, who quit the party in March and is now an independent lawmaker.
In a statement released via his lawyer, Michaloliakos condemned the decision as “unprecedented” and “a blatant violation of the Constitution.” Of GD’s 16 MPs, nine are in custody pending trial on a series of criminal charges.