A gain for Golden Dawn would be a dark day for Greece
“Why should they vote for us? Because they have nothing better,” saysNikolaos Michaloliakos, leader of a Greek far-right party that a decade ago was widely perceived as an illegal, fascist organisation but now stands a very good chance of making it into the Greek parliament.
According to most of the published polls, Chrysi Avgi, or Golden Dawn, will in Sunday’s elections surpass the 3% a party needs to secure one of the 300 seats in the parliament. The recession-inflicted insecurities that far-right narratives might tap into are easy to guess and outlined in a recent article published by Reuters.
High unemployment, the loss of the country’s economic sovereignty, the unprecedented dismantling of the welfare state and the lack of a coherent political direction have created a toxic mix that allows for political opportunism.
Greek people largely feel that Europe and their politicians have betrayed them, and Golden Dawn condemns both. It also shares the popular anti-euro and anti-immigration stance of other European far-right leaders, such as the Netherlands’ Geert Wilders or France’s Marine Le Pen.
But Golden Dawn’s pre-election mantra includes policies that any reasonable supporter of democratic process would call fascist.Michaloliakos may reject the labels “fascist” or “neo-Nazi” that people who have been attacked by members of Golden Dawn attribute to the group, but after his choice of words and a disturbing political agenda, this denial rings hollow.
To this day he has characterised Hitler as “a great personality of history”, declared that “the nation comes first, democracy after” and, in the runup to the local elections in Athens suggested that, if elected, he would create private security companies with members of his own party and, most notably, apply for gun licences.
Michaloliakos attacks journalists on the air, with an unabashed disrespect for the rules of debate. When he manages to be engaged in a discussion, his obsession with unsubstantiated conspiracy theories feeds his populist agenda and distorts the wider social discourse.
Conveniently ignoring that thousands of Greeks have recently become economic immigrants themselves, his party pledges border minefields to prevent incoming immigrants and zero tolerance to dissidents who should be treated as “traitors”.
In a video supporting the party’s campaign Michaloliakos proposes an end to the clear separation of church and state, the reinstatement of the capital punishment for drug dealing, a ban of trade unions, and several proposals that contravene fundamental rules of democracy and human rights.
The reason tens of thousands of Greeks stand behind this propaganda is the sweet talk that comes with it: eradication of debt for low income workers and the unemployed, implementation of an independent audit committee for Greece’s debt, and bringing corrupt but faceless politicians and people of power to account.
Even if these last promises were true, one should not just beware of these Greeks bearing gifts, but shut the door in their face. Golden Dawn is a dangerous choice not just because of its rhetoric but also because of its practices.
Ilias Kassidiaris, another leading party official, began a speech recently by boasting that he regards himself a “soldier” and that, once elected, he’ll present his party’s proposals in parliament “with the way we have known all these years, not with parliamentary questions”. Given the fact that Golden Dawn members have been terrorising immigrants, ordinary citizens and politicians for a while now, often using physical violence, Kassidiaris’s “way” has threatening overtones.
The group’s members have reportedly been allowed to terrorise, insult and attack their perceived enemies, often with members of the police looking the other way or, even worse, collaborating with them, as the Greek TV show Pandora’s Box has revealed. According to the New York Times, Michalis Chrisochoidis, the minister for citizen protection for the socialist Pasok party, stated last year that “guys from Golden Dawn and a number of fascist types were participating in actions that assisted the police”.
Whatever you call Michaloliakos’s party, Greeks shouldn’t let their despair drive them into supporting Golden Dawn in the 6 May elections. For this will not be the dawn of a new era but a step towards the end of democracy.