Dimitris Psarras: Elections 2015. Between competing far-right parties, the purest won

A Golden Dawn supporter raises his hand in a Nazi salute during a rally in Athens. Photo: Yannis Kolesidis/AP (www.theguardian.com, 2.2.2014) A Golden Dawn supporter raises his hand in a Nazi salute during a rally in Athens. Photo: Yannis Kolesidis/AP (www.theguardian.com, 2.2.2014)
New Democracy, Golden Dawn, and the elections
Dimitris Psarras 
If, in the shadow of SYRZA’s triumph, one sought to discern a second victor in the recent elections, the obvious choice would be Golden Dawn. The Nazi organization may not have matched its performance in the European elections in May (9.38%), but the fact that it almost equalled its scores in the previous national elections of May and June 2012 (6.97% and 6.92% respectively) surely confirms the assessment that the party’s rise is not merely a momentary flash in the pan – arriving on the political scene in conditions of crisis in 2010-11 and bound to disappear as suddenly as it had emerged.
Of course, Golden Dawn’s performance in the European elections had already demonstrated that the prosecution of its leading members, accused  of participating in a criminal organization, did not put off much of its electoral pool. Though the Orders of Attack may have disappeared from the streets after September 2013 and though nocturnal attacks and racist crimes as recorded by the Network of Racist Violence Incident Recording may have suffered a drastic decline, Golden Dawn’s political influence has not faded into irrelevance over the past three years.

The reason for this is that while the prosecutors and justice authorities have, since 2013, laid the first foundations for confronting neo-Nazi criminality, no such confrontation with Golden Dawn has been mounted by political parties of the so-called “constitutional arc.” Instead, during the pre-election period the issue of Golden Dawn’s criminal networks disappeared completely from political debate; no one acknowledged the existence of this thorn in democracy's tissue. It was as though people assumed that fascism and racism were bound to disappear automatically, as if through some miracle, at the moment of  the abolition of the austerity memoranda.

The total concealment of the Nazis' actions, including by the Left, sent an implicit message of tolerance that placated the organization’s fears of suppression and revived hopes of future success among its fanatics, invigorated by the suspicion that that perhaps even the state justice system might “forget” its criminal actions.

The parties of the centre-left, Potami and PASOK, mirrored this dynamic by placing at the heart of their campaign strategy a claim that they could take third place in the election away from Golden Dawn. Involuntarily, with this repeated plea they helped to write the party onto the next page of Greek political history by placing it firmly in the centre of debate, while also falling indirectly into Golden Dawn's “third position” trap of depicting itself as an alternative to the dominant polarities of Greek politics in an attempt to rehabilitate it.

But those who gave the final push of encouragement to Golden Dawn's voters were based in the Syggrou headquarters of the main governing party, Nea Dimokratia; the Prime Minister himself and his infamously far-right partners Makis Voridis and Adonis Georgiades. With its references to civil war slogans and its attacks against “Marxists,” “communists,” and even “bandits,” Nea Dimokratia's propaganda arsenal was the Nazi organization's strongest ally. Research in political science has long since shown that wherever conservative European parties adopt elements of far-right rhetoric and policy during pre-election periods, the upshot is the strengthening of extreme far-right parties.

Golden Dawn made sure to put Nea Dimokratia’s election gift to good use, claiming for itself the role of the “true Right,” the only force capable of asserting itself as an heir to the Civil War nationalist tradition. Their leader Nikos Mihaloliakos proclaimed on January 5th this year in a message from jail: “only a powerful Golden Dawn can stop SYRIZA,” because only it “can fight the Marxist antinationalism of SYRIZA, not the liberal traitors of the centre-right.” Last Friday, Golden Dawn’s Elias Panagiotaros, not jailed but under judicial investigation, returned to the same argument: “Only Golden Dawn can save the country from the communists of SYRIZA.” And addressing the followers of the “patriotic right, the popular right, the E.R.E.,” the “traditional voters of N.D.,” he asked them not to give their vote to “these clowns of the dead-right.” His claim was that “the only ones who can truly stop the “communists” are us, of the Golden Dawn.”

As Nea Dimokratia inevitably falls into some degree of internal factionalising following its electoral failure, Golden Dawn, facing the upcoming trials of its leading members, will attempt to revive the unspoken lines of communication formerly existing between themselves and the far-right group around former Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, on the model of the underground collaboration between former cabinet secretary Panagiotis Baltakos and Golden Dawn MP Ilias Kasidiaris, but this time it will claim hegemony on the far-right for itself. This will be another challenge for the political future of the ex-Prime Minister, but also for the whole political system.

Dimitris Psarras is an investigative journalist and author of "The Black Book of Golden Dawn" (Polis editions)

Translated by Elli Papadopoulou