Greece’s election campaign turned ugly on Thursday on live TV when the spokesman of the extreme-right Golden Dawn party lunged at two female left-wing politicians on a mainstream morning talk show, throwing water at one and smacking the other three times across the face.
The violent display, a week and a half ahead of crucial elections, stunned Greeks as they seek to avoid a catastrophic exit from Europe’s common currency. A prosecutor issued an arrest warrant for Ilias Kasidiaris.
Golden Dawn, which vehemently denies the neo-Nazi label and has been accused of violent attacks against immigrants in Athens, insists it is a nationalist patriotic group.
The attack “put on public display what was widely known,” said the left-wing Syriza party, whose member Rena Dourou was splashed with water on the show.
“The true face of this criminal organization,” it said.
Tempers frayed on the daily morning political show on the private Antenna television station during a political debate, to which representatives of all seven parties that won parliamentary seats on May 6 had been invited.
Kasidiaris, his temper wearing thin, shot an insult of “you old Commie” at 58-year-old prominent Communist Party member Liana Kanelli, in return for her branding him a “fascist.” Kasidiaris, 31, who served in the military’s special forces, also took offense at a reference by Dourou to a court case pending against him.
The discussion took a violent turn when Dourou said there was a “crisis of democracy when people who will take the country back 500 years have got into the Greek parliament.”
Kasidiaris jumped out of his seat and hurled a glass of water at her, shouting an insult loosely translated as “you circus act.”
Talk show host Giorgos Papadakis — shouting “no, no, no” — ran over to Kasidiaris, attempting to calm him down, but the Golden Dawn member turned on Kanelli, who had stood up and appeared to throw a newspaper at him.
Kasidiaris hit Kanelli three times — with hard right-left-right slaps to the sides of her head as Papadakis tried and failed to restrain him.
The channel cut to a commercial break and returned five minutes later without Kasidiaris.
Papadakis and Kanelli later said attempts had been made to restrain Kasidiaris after the scuffle by shutting him in a room in the TV channel’s building, but he broke through the door and left.
Police were searching for him to serve the arrest warrant, which under Greek law must be carried out within 48 hours. If he is not arrested within the time limit, the case is dealt with under ordinary court procedures, with a court case being scheduled.
“The government condemns in the most categorical way the attack by Golden Dawn spokesman Ilias Kasidiaris against Liana Kanelli and Rena Dourou,” government spokesman Dimitris Tsiodras said. “This attack is an attack against every democratic citizen.”
For its part, Golden Dawn said it was Kanelli who first attacked Kasidiaris, “hitting him unprovoked in the face with a packet of documents.”
“Golden Dawn continues its fight for a strong nationalist movement against everyone, and naturally against the orphans of Marx, who dominate on the [broadcast] channels and are playing a dirty propaganda game,” the party said in a statement.
“We announce to the Greek people that before the media shut us out, we are shutting them out. We don’t need them. We have half a million Greeks on our side,” it said in a statement posted on its Web site.