The spectre of Neo-Nazism is no longer haunting Greece – it looks like it is here to stay.
The extreme right, anti-immigrant Golden Dawn party, which has Nazi roots, appears headed for a third-place finish in the election.
Its showing comes despite the fact that the party’s leader and most of its MPs are behind bars, facing charges of participating in a “criminal organisation” accused of murders, brutal attacks on migrants and others, extortion and arson.
With more than 90% of the voting precincts reporting, Golden Dawn was receiving 6.3% of the vote, narrowly leading the centrist Potami (“River”) with 6.04%.
Both parties exceeded the 3% minimum required to gain seats in the 300-member parliament – with each forecast to win 17 seats.
Its share of the vote does not match the 9.39% it received in last June’s European Parliament election in which Golden Dawn also finished third. It also trails the 6.92% won in the previous national election, in June 2012.
But considering the exposure of a series of crimes allegedly committed by its members, including the September 2013 murder of a leftist rapper, Pavlos Fyssas, the result obtained yesterday may be even more significant.
This is no longer merely an angry protest vote, a one-off voters’ tiff with “corrupt politicians”. This is an established vote and a hardened electorate.
“They can no longer plead ignorance. They have dipped their hands in blood,” Communist MP Liana Kanelli commented on the result.
Golden Dawn leader Nikos Mihaloliakos and his senior lieutenants were not free to campaign ahead of the election, since they were behind bars.
They were free to stand as candidates because they have not yet gone to trial. Some of them, including Mihaloliakos, may soon be set free when their 18-month maximum pre-trial detention limit is reached.
In a taped statement yesterday, Mihaloliakos celebrated his party’s performance.
“We achieved this great victory despite the fact that we could not be guaranteed an equal and so-called democratic election as the regime likes to call it, shunned by all (media), facing mudslinging and slander from all sides ... having to campaign through a payphone,” he said.
“We have a fresh mandate ... everyone fought to keep Golden Dawn away and they lost. Golden Dawn won.”
In a further twist, if the radical left Syriza party, the winner of the election, fails to achieve an outright majority, it might not be able to form a government and return the mandate, given to it by the President of the Republic.
In that case, the second party takes up the mandate and, if it fails in turn, the third party does. The prospect of a handcuffed Mihaloliakos, escorted by police to meet the Greek president to be asked to try to form a government, sends jitters throughout the political class.
And, if it gets the chance, Golden Dawn is certain to exploit the occasion for maximum effect to ridicule the democracy they despise and whose benefits they are trying to exploit.