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Report: Greece

Golden Dawn in Greece

Reuters/Yorgos Karahalis

In May and June this year, around four hundred thousand Greeks voted for an extreme right-wing party called Golden Dawn, a neo-nazi group that most people previously considered part of the lunatic fringe. Today, many Greeks worry about what they have unleashed...

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With 18 seats in Parliament, Golden Dawn has escalated its attack on both the political establishment and social norms. One neo-nazi member of Parliament was accused of assisting an armed robbery; his trial was postponed indefinitely due to his parliamentary immunity. A few days later, just before the June election, he famously assaulted two left-wing members of Parliament, live on television.

Last week, a new wave of attacks shocked politicians and citizens alike. A Golden Dawn deputy assaulted, inside the Parliament building, a delegate of Syriza, the left-wing party and main opposition. Several more Golden Dawn parliamentarians, leading two groups of neo-nazi thugs, attacked foreign-born street vendors in the Athens suburb of Rafina during a church festival and in a farmers’ market in the town Missolonghi.

Missolonghi is a potent symbol that resonates strongly in Greece: the heroic exodus of its besieged inhabitants against an overwhelmingly stronger Ottoman army in 1826, during the Greek War of Independence, inspired the poem that became Greece’s national anthem.

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After the Greek media expressed indignation, Parliament was mobilized and the Government decided to take action. The subject was brought before the Parliament’s Ethics’ Committee which condemned the attacks, though the parties of the Left expressed their disapproval, because the resolution’s wording was not stringent enough.

The Minister of Public Order Nikos Dendias asked the Police to come up with a strategy in order to deal with right-wing extremists and racist attacks. According to media reports, police commissioners were given the go-ahead to arrest even Members of Parliament in case they commit offenses such as usurpation of authority or aggravated assault. Security Police were ordered to have Golden Dawn headquarters and local branches under observation, while websites carrying racist and fascist propaganda will be under surveillance by the Cyber Crime Unit.

Yet many think this will not be enough, and the problem will get more severe as long as conditions in Greece continue to get worse: salaries and pensions have been reduced dramatically and public spending has been slashed while unemployment and crime have gone up. The country is facing at once an economic, a social and a political crisis. Some analysts, looking at the current situation, even detect shades of Weimar, Germany’s failed first republic.

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