Who will inherit Golden Dawn votes?
Even months ago, this could have caused a big political stir. It would have probably splashed on the front pages of the Greek press and would have fuelled serious discussions on the current state of Turkish-Greek relations. Instead, although the non-inclusion of the issue of the re-opening of the Halki Seminary in the recent democratization package by the Turkish government, caused deep frustration in the Ecumenical Patriarchate circles and the members of the small Greek-Orthodox community of Istanbul Rums, it was little commented in mainland Greece. Admittedly the Greek Foreign Ministry rushed to respond to statements made by Turkish officials that Ankara is waiting for corresponding gestures by the Greek government regarding the election of the religious leadership of the Turkish Muslims of Western Thrace and the construction of a mosque in Athens. And insisted that the protection of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the reopening of the Seminary are not issues of bilateral negotiations but relate to respecting the religious rights of Turkish citizens. But that was all.
Instead the attention of the government, the opposition parties, the state in general as well as the public, in Greece, has been totally absorbed by the dramatic events which followed the cold blooded murder of an anti-fascist Greek rapper by a member of the neo-Nazi fascist party Golden Dawn almost two weeks ago. After an unprecedented mobilization of police and legal authorities, the party of Golden Dawn was declared a “criminal organization” and its General Secretary, his second in command and two more elected members of the Greek Parliament were put under custody. More and more evidence is coming up showing the links of the party with the corrupt part of the Greek police, the underworld, and even German neo-Nazis. The decision by the investigating authorities to release three GD parliamentarians on bail may have raised some legal eye-brows but after a week of a non-stop search by the authorities to discover the extension and the depth of infiltration of GD in society, nobody can be in doubt that the government is determined to exterminate the organization although the imprisoned deputies legally retain their status and are expected to participate in the voting procedures in Parliament. But erasing Golden Dawn is not going to be easy. An insignificant group of ultra-rightists with only a few thousand supporters back in late eighties, managed to convince large parts of the Greek society that it was a genuine protest voice in the Greek Parliament against a corrupt political establishment that collectively and for more than thirty years brought the country to its knees begging for bail outs from the EU and the IMF.
But the shock and awe felt by the electorate after discovering the brutal face of Golden Dawn peaked last week with the arrest and imprisonment pending trial of its core leadership. What is being questioned and discussed now is the political aftermath of the Golden Dawn issue.
“The question is who is going to shelter those orphans of Golden Dawn” tweeted a Greek commentator known for his support for the leftist opposition party Syriza. And indeed, near half a million voters of Golden Dawn –who everybody insists are not “fascists but frustrated and impoverished citizens angry at corrupt politicians”- can certainly be a valuable electoral mass that could determine the next government. Next government? Yes, this is the next question hotly debated. If the governing party of New Democracy can persuade the “orphans” to abandon the embrace of a criminal family, and vote for a party that it is fighting for the restoration of economy but also of democracy, then it may choose to go for an early election even by the end of this year. It is not as easy as the electorate may agree about the fight for democracy but may be skeptical of the economic recovery. For many Greeks, early elections may seem to be a message for new tough austerity measures tied up in a new bailout package planned in the corridors of Brussels. But on the other hand the fuzziness of the official opposition rhetoric distorts an already fragmented political map which showed last week that a significant number of the “orphans” who are abandoning GD are dispersing into smaller conservative and leftist parties.