It was startling and sickening when Golden Dawn, the Greek neo-Nazi gang, took nearly seven percent of the vote in May’s national elections. Immediately afterwards, Golden Dawn flashed its violent and authoritarian ways by setting an appalling rule for its press conferences: journalists had to stand as the gang leader entered the room, or they would be kicked out. Excuses and wishful thinking followed, as Greeks sought to come to terms with the thugs who now commanded 21 seats in parliament: people had voted out of anger, without really understanding what Golden Dawn was; or voters were just looking to shake things up; or Golden Dawn’s vote count would drop in the next election as people would come to their senses.
Days before the elections on June 17, Golden Dawn grabbed the headlines again. During a televised political discussion, one of the gang’s lieutenants, a skinhead, turned on two female parliamentary candidates of the Communist Party of Greece (KKE). The skinhead tossed water from his glass on the first and slapped the second several times.
That was surely the end. People saw Golden Dawn for what it really was. Political leaders condemned the incident. (Yet the leader of the center-right party, who ultimately became prime minister, included an anti-immigrant plank in his platform that was little different from Golden Dawn’s position.) As it turned out, the incident had no effect. There has even been speculation that the violence reversed the decline in support for Golden Dawn.
Ultimately, the neo-Nazis garnered just 15,000 fewer votes in the June elections, a decrease of 0.05% of the vote. Some eighteen of their gangsters entered parliament earlier this week. No incidents of violence have been reported in the chamber yet.
Here’s what a friend told the New York Times on election night
“‘It took us 2,500 years after Plato and Socrates to get to this point, where we have a society with laws and a democracy where we use dialogue to communicate and resolve our issues,’ he said. ‘Now it seems some people want to go back to chaos with a society in which whoever is strongest wins.’”