Ilias Kasidiaris, spokesman for the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party, has gone missing since an Athens prosecutor ordered his arrest moments after the televised brawl shocked the nation and stoked tensions in an already deeply polarized climate of political campaigning, 10 days ahead of national elections.
Tempers flared when Rena Dorou, a member of the leftist Syriza party, referred to criminal charges Kasidiaris faced in connection with the alleged robbery and gang beating of a university student in 2007.
Kasidiaris leapt from his chair, dousing Dorou with a glass of water that he hurled across the debate table. He then turned to Liana Kanelli, an outspoken communist lawmaker, striking her face three times with consecutive right-left-right slaps as the talk show host tried to intervene, shouting, “No, no, no!”
Police said they were scouring the country, mainly the greater Athens area, for Kasidiaris, 31, a former special forces officer whose party scored a stunning 7% in inconclusive polls May 6.
“We have multiplied surveillance in every point of exit so that he will not be able to elude our dragnet,” police spokesman Athanassios Kokkalakis said as the government and political parties of all stripes condemned the punch-up, a video of which has gone viral on the Web.
Using a mangled swastika as its symbol and revering Adolf Hitler, Golden Dawn increased its share of the vote from 0.3% to nearly 7% in last month’s polling by tapping into the anger and pain of two years of austerity cuts and deep economic recession. Its capture of 21 seats in Greece’s 300-member parliament sent chills through much of the rest of the Europe.
On Thursday, Golden Dawn leader Nikos Mihaloliakos refused to condemn the incident, arguing that Kasidiaris, who fled the TV set before security guards could stop him, was “provoked.”
Since Golden Dawn’s debut in parliament, squads of black-clad supporters have fanned out across the country, making their presence -- and hatred for immigrants -- ever more visible with revenge attacks and altercations.
"Now that they have seen what this party is really about, Greeks will have no excuse to vote for them again," said Prokopos Pavlopoulos, a conservative lawmaker also participating in the talk show. "I personally will never take part in a debate with a member of Golden Dawn again."
-- Anthee Carassava
Photo: In this shot lifted from Greek television, far-right party member Ilias Kasidiaris slaps left-wing lawmaker Liana Kanelli during a talk show. Kasidiaris is now wanted by police. Credit: Antenna TV / Associated Press