Greek television channels spent most of yesterday replaying and debating shocking scenes of violence between rival politicians that erupted during a live television talk show.
A public prosecutor ordered the immediate arrest of the far-right Golden Dawn party's Ilias Kasidiaris after he punched and slapped a Communist rival, Liana Kanelli, and hurled a glass of water at a radical left MP, Rena Dourou.
The talk show's seven guests, representing all of the parties elected to the Greek parliament in the vote on 6 May, were debating whether natural resources could help to pull the debt-strapped country out of its financial quagmire, but the talks quickly degenerated. Ms Kanelli called Mr Kasidiaris a "fascist" and he retorted with "old commie".
After Ms Douru made reference to a court case pending against him and said his party would "take the country back 500 years", Mr Kasidiaris leapt from his chair and threw a glass of water over her.
As Ms Kanelli stood up to condemn Mr Kasidiaris and threw a newspaper at him, the ex-special forces weightlifting enthusiast turned his rage on her. He slapped Ms Kanelli around the face three times as she struggled to defend herself.
The host, Giorgos Papadakis, ran across the set shouting "No, No" as he tried to intervene, but was too slow to stop the attack. After the incident, Mr Kasidiaris was locked in a room at the Athens studio but broke down a door and escaped, it was claimed. Last night, police were searching for the party leader.
Ms Kanelli, a former journalist, told The Independent: "I got the winning ticket to unveil the face of the monster." She said her assailant was out of control but added: "I have dignity. I could not just sit there as everyone was just stunned, white and motionless. I'm still trying to collect my senses. I assure you, this is not our culture."
Golden Dawn won an unprecedented 21 seats in the 300-seat parliament in May, riding on a wave of discontent over the economy and rising nationalist sentiment. It campaigned on the promise to rid the country of illegal immigrants and lock up corrupt politicians.
No party won a majority in the election and several attempts to form a coalition failed. Another election will be held on 17 June.
In a statement, Golden Dawn said Mr Kasidiaris was provoked. "If you want us to condemn our fellow fighter for this truly unfortunate moment, you must first condemn the insults and attack of Liana Kanelli or you are nothing more than sad hypocrites," it added.