This article originally appeared on VICE Greece.
Greece is a long way away from getting out of its economic slump, despite all the stuff the country's newscasters have been telling their audiences for the past couple of months. And, really, money is the least of our troubles; the real problem is the fact that the Greek political system is all kinds of messed up, but that it managed to hide its ugly face under a big pile of cash during the years of prosperity, so nobody really noticed until now. We've had to deal with that ugliness since the money ran out, and it's not going to be easy to shift.
The latest political scandal to threaten Greece's democracy since austerity was imposed is the release of a video-taped conversation between the government’s former-Cabinet Secretary, Panagiotis Baltakos, and Golden Dawn (GD) spokesman Ilias Kasidiaris. The video suggests that the prosecution of the far-right party, for charges relating to it being a "criminal organisation," was orchestrated by the government in an attempt to make political headway and win votes.
Obviously that calls a few things into question — for example, the validity of the 150,000-page report that was compiled by judicial authorities following the murder of anti-fascist activist and rapper Pavlos Fyssas by Golden Dawn member George Roupakias last autumn.
Kasidiaris released the video transcripts in parliament on Wednesday during a meeting about the vote to lift the political impunity of five Golden Dawn MPs. Following the release, Baltakos’ son stormed the GD parliamentary offices and attempted to assault three of the party's deputies. The release of the video on the Russian site Rutube has thrown Greece's political and juridical system into disarray, as Baltakos — who has since resigned from his post from as cabinet secretary – was widely perceived to be Prime Minister Antonis Samaras' right hand man, handpicked by the PM himself to help him shape and direct government policy. And if he's allegedly OK with making up criminal charges, who knows what else he's been up to.
In the transcript, Baltakos appears to be apologizing to Kasidiaris for the way events have unfolded during the ongoing judicial investigation into the GD's activities. He suggests that the investigator had no evidence against Kasidiaris — or another GD MP, Ilias Panagiotaros — which is why the two haven't been imprisoned. Meaning he's openly supporting their innocence, while also suggesting that the responsibility for their not being detained lies with government ministers and not with the judicial authorities. Baltakos then suggests that government officials consciously intervened with the judicial process in an attempt to dismantle the extremist far-right group.
The ease and comfort with which a senior government official appears to be conversing with a member of what, for many Greeks, is essentially the political cesspit — a party that many consider to be the most violent political force in the EU today — has caused a wave of shock across the country, reinforcing the feeling that there is something rotten at the heart of our political system. In the video, Baltakos can be heard telling Kasidiaris that the Greek prime minister, who he describes as a "bourgeois," was convinced that the criminal prosecution of the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn would hurt the party's polling rates and benefit his own party, New Democracy.
Moreover, according to Baltakos, Supreme Court Judge Euterpe Goutzamanis — a devout Christian — was appointed to her position because she comes from the same village as the prime minister. In the video, Baltakos says that Goutzamanis accused the Golden Dawn of being "pagans, idolaters [and] Nazis," adding that "this goes against Christianity.” Golden Dawn members were convicted, Baltakos tells Kasidiaris, not because they had done anything wrong but because Goutzamanis had it in for them.
Back in 2012, Baltakos threw a National Human Rights Commission representative out of his office, stating that the government of New Democracy had no interest in the rights of man, and that he didn't personally care about the country’s international responsibilities and duties.
Unfortunately, something tells me that more upsetting revelations will follow.
Photo via Flickr.