The sun is setting on Golden Dawn
Golden Dawn, the neo-Nazi party, received 7 per cent of the vote in the recent Greek elections. The results were just another link in the chain of a far-right resurgence in Europe – or were they? Two reports on racism and voting, published in May, are enlightening.
According to the data, Golden Dawn is most popular amongst males aged 35-44, of secondary education or a vocational background, and those currently unemployed or shop owners. But their support reflects wider views. A stunning 59 per cent of those living in the centre of Athens believe that the presence of immigrants has a negative impact on the Greek economy. Moreover, 61 per cent believe that immigrants undermine the nation’s culture, while only 8 per cent think that immigration enriches Greek society.
When asked to describe the effect of immigration on a scale of 0 (negative effect) to 10 (positive effect), voters of right-wing parties scored the lowest, while leftwing parties were only a little higher. The centre left Socialist Party gave an average of 3.4, the same as the Communist party, while those of New Democracy (centre right) barely surpassed 2. The neoliberal party Action were most positive at 4.7. Not one political group scored five or over, marking a clear and unanimous anti-immigration sentiment amongst Greek voters.
Through the synergy of the financial crisis, an influx of illegal immigrants, idle public bodies and political tensions, the centre of the historic capital has turned into a hive of poverty, sanitary hazards and crime – ranging from an open trade of smuggled goods to prostitution, drug use and racial violence. Two in three residents of Athens state that they are afraid of crossing their nearby park after midnight and 1 in 3 are scared of staying alone in their flats during August, when the majority of the population leaves the city for summer holidays, providing fertile ground for burglars and robbers. In other words, the anti-immigration stance of Greek citizens has evolved from incident-related reactions to a more generalised fear.
Recent polls for the upcoming second election give the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn 4-5 per cent of the vote. Until 2011, Athenians that came in contact with Golden Dawn resided mostly in the troubled neighbourhoods of Aghios Panteleimonas and Kypseli. However, the party’s influence in these two areas has decreased by 4 per cent, most probably because citizens are becoming increasingly disillusioned with its actions and mentality, while in the rest of Athens, where racist violence has been scarce, it has increased by 3 per cent.
It makes sense. This is not another populist rightwing party. It is a neo-Nazi gang, comprised mostly of skinheads, a number of which have outstanding court summons relating to violent crimes. The party has openly glorified Hitler and the Waffen SS; been involved in a number of racist attacks and pogroms; collaborated with the Greek riot squads against protestors, antifascists and immigrants; and been associated with neo-paganism and Satanism.
Golden Dawn’s threat is over-stated. A drop in their vote – from 7 to 4 per cent, and ultimately back down 0.5 percent – should be expected.
Some 60 per cent of Golden Dawn’s votes were cast in protest. Many of these are planning to make a full swing and vote for the radical left coalition SYRIZA in the second election. Another 30 per cent of Golden Dawn’s vote was motivated by the promise to 'get rid of immigrants'. But seeing as all Greek voters view immigration in a negative light, Golden Dawn are unlikely to hold the monopoly as an outlet for this grievance. Just 4.8 per cent of their voters support Golden Dawn’s ideology.
The threat of this neo-Nazi gang must be downgraded. Once communities witness the racist and authoritarian practices of Golden Dawn, support soon dwindles. Although political quarantine in parliament and awareness-raising is necessary, Greece would do better to take care of a population wholly opposed to immigration, disillusioned by politics and stricken by poverty and unemployment.