Greece’s heated election campaign has turned ugly on live TV, with a spokesman for the far-right party Golden Dawn physically assaulting two left-wing deputies during a morning political show.
A public prosecutor ordered Golden Dawn spokesman Ilias Kasidiaris’ immediate arrest after Thursday’s incident.
Tempers frayed on the political show on the private Antenna television station during a discussion of the country’s politics in the run-up to repeat elections on June 17.
Kasidiaris took offence at a reference by radical left Syriza party member Rena Dorou over a court case that is pending against him.
Kasidiaris bounded out of his seat and hurled a glass of water across the table over Dorou when she said there was a “crisis of democracy when people who will take the country back 500 years have got into the Greek parliament”.
He then turned on a prominent Communist Party member, Liana Kanelli, who had got up out of her chair with a newspaper in hand and appeared to throw it at the Golden Dawn member.
Giorgos Papadakis, the talk show host, ran over to Kasidiaris to attempt to calm him, shouting “No, no, no!”
Kasidiaris, who has served in the Greek military’s special forces, hit Kanelli around the face three times, with right-left-right slaps to the sides of her head.
Kasidiaris was elected to parliament in the country’s recent inconclusive polls.
Deputies from all seven parties that won parliament seats in the May 6 polls had been invited on the show.
The public reaction to the attack was strong.
“The people voted for them because they didn’t know what Golden Dawn was. They didn’t know they’re a new form of neo-Nazis,” one woman in central Athens said.
One man hailed the incident as an example of a failing democracy.
“What I saw this morning is a derailment of democracy. It shows our people how democracy works in our country. There is no democracy,” local resident Giorgos Theofanis said.
Golden Dawn won nearly seven per cent of the vote on May 6, giving it 21 seats in the 300-member parliament.
It was a radical increase from its showing in the previous elections in 2009, when the party had won just 0.31 per cent of the vote.
Greeks reeling from two years of austerity amid their country’s vicious financial crisis punished the two formerly main parties, the conservative New Democracy and socialist PASOK at the polls, turning instead to radical smaller parties to the right and left of the political spectrum.
The 300 deputies took up their seats for a day last month before parliament was dissolved and new elections called as no party had won enough votes to form a government on its own, and negotiations for a coalition government collapsed after 10 days.