Inside Story

Facing up to Greece's far right

Will the arrests of Golden Dawn members halt the party's growing popularity permanently?

Last Modified: 30 Sep 2013 12:28
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At a time of growing anger over austerity measures and state corruption, Greece's far right Golden Dawn party appeared to strike a chord with voters. From the fringe of Greek politics, the party emerged as the third most popular. It won 18 seats in last year's parliamentary election, campaigning on a strict anti-immigration platform.

We have for the first time in Greek history, the accusation by the aeneral attorney towards a political party that they are actually a mafia-type organisation. Because they are accused under the legislation in Greece, which resembles the recall laws in the United States. So this is a very important development.

Ioannis Michaletos, a security analyst

But that support seems to be waning. The party has been linked to a series of attacks on immigrants and political opponents.

Founder and leader Nikolaos Michaloliakos has been charged with belonging to a criminal group, with intent to commit crime and several MPs have been arrested.

It is the first time since 1974 that sitting members of parliament have been arrested. It follows the murder of a 34-year-old anti-racist musician and immigrant, who bled to death after being stabbed at a party.

It was a crime that stirred public outrage and caused street protests but Golden Dawn denies any involvement.

The swift action taken by the government against the party appears to show its determination to take on the far right - a move which is welcomed by human rights groups.

Kostis Papaioannou, the president of Greece's national human rights committee, says: "Definitely it is a late reaction, it is a good reaction, it is good that it is happening at last. If this reaction had come earlier - as we had many times suggested - then I think that Greek democracy would not have been at this dangerous point and also some people would have escaped being injured or even killed."

Golden Dawn is one of a number of nationalist parties that have gained traction in Europe because of worries about mass immigration and economic uncertainty. But the messages of the parties are varied, and so are the number of people listening.

The Progress Party in Norway is the second largest in parliament, and Anders Breivik, the perpetrator of the 2011 Norway attacks, was once a member. The party has advocated for a ban on the hijab or headscarf, and the deportation of parents whose children wear them.

What we need is a proper debate starting with the media covering the views of nationalist parties, including Golden Dawn, instead of the street demonising it with slogans.

Nick Griffin, leader of the British National Party

The Swiss People's Party has been the largest in the federal assembly since 2007. It banned the construction of minarets in 2009 and wants strict neutrality in Switzerland.

The Freedom Party in Austria has a focus on anti-immigration, anti-Islam and eurosceptic issues, advocating the withdrawal from the eurozone.

But far right groups are not always embraced at the ballot box, or by governments. In July, France banned three far right groups, linked to the death of a left-wing activist.

And while groups like the English Defence League and the British National Party have some support on the streets, they do not have any seats in parliament.

So is there a broader support for the far right across Europe? Where does the support for Golden Dawn come from? And will the arrests curb Golden Dawn’s influence?

Inside Story, with presenter Stephen Cole, discusses with guests: Ioannis Michaletos, an independent journalist and security analyst specialising in terrorism and extremism; Nick Griffin, the leader of the British National Party and a member of the European Parliament; and Kevin Passmore, a lecturer at Cardiff University and author of the book Fascism: A very Short Introduction.

"I do think something is happening in Greece that is quite different to the way that the far right has risen in the rest of Europe where those kind of extreme economic conditions and extreme political polarisation haven't really quite happened. Greece resembles the situation of the inter-war period much more than any other European country in recent times. The situation then was that parliament became paralysed. The only way out was for part of the parliamentary right to turn towards the far right to break the deadlock. And one wonders which way things will go in Greece."

Kevin Passmore, a lecturer at Cardiff University


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