ATHENS - Reuters
A woman walks past graffiti sprayed on the Athens Academy. AFP photo
Most Greeks view the far-right Golden Dawn party as a criminal organization, according to a poll published Oct. 4 that found the party had lost almost half of its support since its leader and lawmakers were arrested.
Party leader Nikolaos Michaloliakos, five senior lawmakers and dozens of party members were arrested on Sept. 28 on charges of belonging to a criminal group in a crackdown that followed the killing of anti-fascist rapper Pavlos Fyssas by an avowed Golden Dawn supporter, as well as a spate of attacks on migrants.
Michaloliakos and two fellow lawmakers were sent to jail pending trial while three other MPs were freed with orders to not leave Greece. All six have denied the charges against them and say they are victims of political persecution.
Mihaloliakos, grey-haired and bespectacled, shouted: “Long live Greece! Victory!” as he was led away from court in handcuffs in the early hours of Oct. 3. He denied charges of founding and belonging to a criminal organization during a six-hour plea session before a judge.
His wife and daughter, joined by Golden Dawn lawmakers, stood outside the court in the rain. “You are a diamond – don’t buckle,” his wife Eleni Zaroulia, a fellow lawmaker, told him.
Flag-waving supporters, meanwhile, yelled a popular party slogan: “Blood! Honor! Golden Dawn!”
The poll by VPRC for the rizopoulospost.com website, conducted in two rounds on Sept. 25 and Sept. 30-Oct. 3, found support for Golden Dawn stood at 8.5 percent, down from 14.5 percent in July.'Criminal organization'
A majority of 68 percent believe Golden Dawn is a criminal organization, the survey showed.
Police have found unlicensed weapons and Nazi
memorabilia in searches of the homes of arrested members but the party, whose emblem resembles a swastika, rejects the neo-Nazi label.
Golden Dawn, which won over many Greeks angry at traditional parties over the country’s economic collapse, record unemployment and a rise in crime, remains the third most popular political force.
It is still more popular that the once-mighty Socialist Pasok party, junior partner in Prime Minister Antonis Samaras’ coalition government, which has just 7 percent support, according to the poll.
The anti-bailout opposition leftist Syriza topped the poll with 29.5 percent support while Samaras’ conservative New Democracy party stood at 29 percent.
Golden Dawn won 18 seats in Parliament in elections last year with about 7 percent of the vote after being relatively unknown for years.
The party says it is a victim of a politically-motivated witch hunt by the government to rob it of votes.