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Greece's parliament has set the stage for banning parties whose leaders have been convicted of crimes from running in elections ahead of spring parliamentary elections, Reuters reported.

MPs voted yesterday in favor of an amendment aimed at preventing political parties such as the far-right Golden Dawn, once Greece's third-largest political force, from running in elections after it was declared a criminal group linked to hate crimes in a court case trial in 2020

The law will also affect the small right-wing Elines party, meaning "Greeks", co-founded by former Golden Dawn MP and spokesman Ilias Kasidiaris, who was sentenced to 13 years in prison in 2020. Opinion polls estimate support for the party close to the 3 percent threshold needed to enter parliament.

The amendment tabled by the Conservative government was approved by a parliamentary majority in the 300-seat chamber.

"No one in this room wants to go through this, to see again ... the parliamentary representation of a few become a weapon of violence against citizens, leading to brutal killings and injuries," Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said before the vote, calling MPs to vote "yes".

Golden Dawn has been linked to the murder of an anti-fascist rapper and a wave of violent attacks against political opponents, immigrants and left-wing activists.

The appeals trial against the accused Golden Dawn members, including Kasidiaris, began in June last year and could last up to two years.

Kasidiaris called in a statement to withdraw the amendment and accused the government of "plotting against democracy" in the name of its own interests.

The Greek government survived

According to the amendment, parties cannot participate in elections if their "real leaders", not just their official representatives, have been convicted in any court of any crime punishable by up to life in prison and ranging from treason or espionage to participation in a criminal organization.

The Greek constitution bars people with a criminal record from running in elections, provided the person's guilt is proven at all stages of the judicial process and appeals are rejected.

The Supreme Court decides whether the parties meet the conditions to participate in the elections.

The main opposition party, the left-wing SYRIZA, has accused the government of using tactics to win over far-right voters in the upcoming parliamentary elections.