Almost 13 percent of Greeks voted for anti-Semitic, extreme-right parties in Sunday’s European Parliament elections, split between Golden Dawn, which secured three seats, and the Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS), which at 2.7% of the popular vote lost its seat from the parliament’s previous session.
But even with the decline of LAOS, “it would be a mistake to consider only the percentage of Golden Dawn” in assessing the extreme right in Greece,” Victor Eliezer, secretary general of the Central Board of Jewish Communities in Greece, told The Times of Israel on Tuesday.
Opposition party Syriza, which led this weekend’s popular vote with some 27%, has gone on record saying Prime Minister Antonis Samaras from New Democracy is responsible for the country’s growing acceptance of anti-Semitism through his party’s “rich collection of right-wing extremists and Holocaust deniers.”
Eliezer noted that three prominent LAOS members had moved to the New Democracy party ahead of the 2012 elections. “Since then they have not made any anti-Semitic statements, and some have even repudiated previous statements,” he said, noting that the Jewish community has a good relationship with Samaras, who is the first acting Greek prime minister to visit a synagogue.
Political pundits have attributed Golden Dawn’s success — it is the third-most popular party in the country — to a “protest vote” from a disenfranchised electorate after five years of economic crisis.
But Eliezer no longer gives credence to this explanation. Golden Dawn polled less than 0.5% in the 2009 European election, and in three subsequent elections since 2012, when it won 6.7%, has gathered increasing support, culminating in Sunday’s almost 10%. Hardly a fluke, he said.
“Today, after two years, given the fact that the leadership is in jail and accused as participants in a criminal organization — after all these details are published, the symbols, the Nazi ideology and methods to train a new generation — there is no excuse.
“I am sorry to have to think and believe that 9.7% of Greeks truly believe this Nazi party can save the country from economic catastrophe,” he said.
Golden Dawn itself would likely agree with Eliezer.
On Monday night, party spokesman Ilias Kasidiaris read a message from its jailed leader Nikos Michaloliakos stating, “New Democracy paid the price for their policies against our people and their lies and Syriza has failed to express the public anger.
“Golden Dawn is now the third pole in the political life of the country. Our slogan was that the thieves should be in prison and the money they embezzled returned to the people but the thieves managed to put us in jail. They tried to dig a grave for us but they fell in it themselves.”
Six Golden Dawn MPs are currently in jail, where they await trial for instigating attacks against immigrants. However, the party’s ties with police and military are strong, and members of the police were investigated in October on suspicion of organizing cells with Golden Dawn.
According to Greek paper Ekathimerini, Golden Dawn did well above the national mean vote at special stations set up for on-duty police, averaging over 20%.
The link to law enforcement and security can be seen in the new Golden Dawn European Parliament members. The three elected members are two former lieutenant generals and the father of a Golden Dawn member murdered in a drive-by shooting.
Eleftherios Synadinos is a former commander of the army’s special forces and Georgios Epitideios is a former director at the European Union Military Staff. Lampros Fountoulis, the bereaved father, is a former postal worker who says he will fight for “victims of terrorism.”
Ahead of the vote, Epitideios released an alarmist statement saying, “Our country is facing the greatest risk to its existence since it became an independent state… and thousands of desperate compatriots have been driven to suicide.”
In an interview with Britain’s Telegraph ahead of the elections, Fountoulis said, “A political party cannot be held responsible for individual incidents in which hotheaded young people sought to defend themselves and yes, maybe in the past members flirted with neo-Nazism but since we became a legally elected party those elements are in the past.
“Because we are a party of Greek patriots, of people who really love their homeland and want to preserve our cultural integrity and keep Greece for the Greeks, does that make us Fascists and Nazis?”