Ilias Kasidiaris has been in a Greek prison since 2021 for his involvement with the far-right Golden Dawn party. The group disbanded after several members were convicted of running a criminal organization linked to hate crimes.
But that hasn’t stopped Kasidiaris, who has a swastika tattoo, from running to be mayor of Athens.
On Monday, the center-left PASOK alliance of parties submitted a proposal that would bar convicted criminals such as Kasidiaris from running in elections. According to Greek news site eKathimerini, it is unclear if the ruling government will accept the proposal.
According to reports, Kasidiaris has remained a popular figure with his followers behind bars, regularly using a cell phone and posting to social media. “He’s even been given the opportunity to conduct radio shows from his cell and has been very effective in using social media to rally support among the young,” the head of a group that studies far-right movements told the Guardian in April.
After Kasidiaris’ post-Golden Dawn party was banned, he founded a new party called the National Party-Greeks. But parliament banned that party from participating in June’s elections over concerns that Kasidiaris and other Golden Dawn alumni could re-enter the lawmaking body.
Still, Kasidiaris made his presence felt — he endorsed a slate of new far-right parties from his jail cell, and they performed well in the election, earning over 12% of the national vote. Analysts say the results could signal a resurgence of the far right in Greece.
Members of Golden Dawn — a fiercely anti-immigrant party that formed in the wake of Greece’s early 2010s financial crisis — were accused of attacking migrants and critics on the left, sometimes physically. Members denied the neo-Nazi label, but the group’s leaders praised the Nazis’ blood-and-soil nationalism, often denied the Holocaust and marched under a symbol that resembles the Nazi flag.
Former Golden Dawn member Yiorgos Roupakias was given a life sentence for the murder of Pavlos Fyssas, an anti-fascist rapper, in 2013.
Kasidiaris has admitted to being a Holocaust denier, and other Golden Dawn members had called Israel an “eternal enemy” of Greece and Greek Orthodoxy. Greek Jewish groups condemned Golden Dawn’s former leader for saying there were no gas chambers in Auschwitz.