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Op-Ed: Protest voters turn to Greece's far-right Golden Dawn

By Katerina Nikolas     May 5, 2012 in Politics
As many Greek voters prepare to cast a protest vote against the traditional mainstream parites in the May 6 elections, the far-right anti-immigration party Golden Dawn (Chryssi Avghi) is poised to enter Parliament for the first time.
Just one decade ago the Journal of the International Institute published a paper entitled "Why There is no Extreme Right in Greece." Yet in Sunday's elections it is widely expected that the far-right party Golden Dawn may field as many as a dozen representatives in Parliament. Alarm has been raised in the international press in recent days at the prospect of a Greek neo-Nazi group gaining political legitimacy.
In reality support for fringe political parties, from Golden Dawn to a host of others who represent the 32 parties standing for election, is more about protest against current government policies rather than support for certain ideologies.
Both the far-right and the far-left are standing against what is perceived as a lack of Greek sovereignty dictated by the EU. Fotis Kouvelis, leader of the Democratic Left has described Europe as a ”'Fourth Reich' dominated by Germany, which proportionately loans the biggest share of Greece’s loan monies and demanded austerity but insisted Greece keep buying weapons from German manufacturers" according to Greek Reporter.
At the opposite end of the spectrum Golden Dawn is playing on a growing fear of crime which has escalated to dramatic proportions, fuelled by an inexorable rise of illegal immigration which the country cannot economically sustain. Whilst illegal immigrants are not responsible for Greece's economic crisis they are widely perceived as bearing responsibility for the increase in crime.
Athens News describes the sentiment in some neighbourhoods in Athens as "entire innercity neighbourhoods have practically become ghettos of undocumented migrants. Local residents justifiably resent the idea of being forced to live in an apparently lawless environment while authorities stand idly by." In such areas Golden Dawn has won support despite its Neo-Nazi image which has no place in Greece. NRP reports that Golden Dawn party members "offer themselves as bodyguards to escort the elderly to ATM machines and grocery shopping."
Pollster Costas Panagopoulos analyses that those supporting the far-right due to fears of crime do not understand the true ideology of the party. The rhetoric of Golden Dawn is violently anti-immigrant. Party spokesman Ilias Panagiotaros says "Seal our borders with mines, full protection from army in the borders, high penalties and fines for Greeks who rent houses to illegal immigrants, high penalties and fines for Greeks who have illegal immigrants in their jobs."
As the New York Times pointed out this week, the rise of the neo-Nazi party has fed on anti-German sentiment in the current economic abyss. Those who choose to cast their vote for Golden Dawn on May 6 are exercising a protest vote against current policies and against crime, EU bailouts, austerity and the current crop of corrupt politicians, rather than in most cases actually supporting a Neo-Nazi ideology. The worrying aspect is these protest votes could give the far-right a political platform unheard of in Greece prior to these elections.
It is a situation being mirrored across Europe, as witnessed by the almost 19 percent support for Marine Le Pen in the recent first-round voting in the French Presidential election.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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