Today marks the second anniversary of the murder of hip-hop artist Pavlos Fyssas by a member of Golden Dawn. The murder of a young Greek man marked the tipping point at which the Greek political and judicial establishment stopped pussy-footing around the Neo-Nazi organisation and its leadership in Parliament, after years of massing evidence of organised criminal violence and racketeering (a good account of the history of the case has just been published in English). Tomorrow will be two years since criminal proceedings were initiated against them on these charges. And yet what was once shocking to a large majority of Greeks and foreigners alike has become just another mundane reality for a weary public, scarcely reported by a foreign press once filled with shocking reports on the rise of the neighbourhood Nazis.
So where are Golden Dawn now? Here’s a handy catch-up guide if you haven’t been watching:
First of all, they are not in prison. The trial of the few dozen members against whom charges were filed started in April of this year, after the 18 month maximum for preventative detention under Greek law had lapsed. We have commented elsewhere on the chronic delays which plague the Greek justice system – this trial is no exception. This means that the political leadership are free to take their benches in Parliament, and have been doing so with great enthusiasm to vote “no” in the last three crucial votes on the latest bailout package, burnishing their “anti-austerity” “OXI” credentials (the legislation was in fact passed).
Secondly, they are running in Sunday’s general elections. They are doing so behind a cordon sanitaire of sorts, erected since their prosecution by a newly prudish media. They were not given a seat at last week’s televised debate, despite coming third in the January 2015 elections. They no longer receive invitations to panel shows where they could once be relied on to provide what our friends in the UK media refer to as “good telly” (i.e. reliably ‘sparky‘ guests that can be counted upon to instigate a good ‘ding-dong‘, in the parlance of British television news editors and producers, according to BBC veteran koutofrangos). They are however using their full allocation of TV and radio time to air their campaign adverts. The first of these features their leader barking at the camera surrounded by the symbols of his beliefs including an icon of St George, patron saint of the army, and his military record. The second, much more sinister, enlists pester power: three children demand to “be taught their real history”, “not to become a minority in their own country”, “not to have their future sold off”, “Greece for the Greeks” (you can google these if you want, I don’t want to drive traffic to their site). Not quite in the league of “Tomorrow Belongs to Me“, the ads are out of focus (probably filmed on a smartphone) and even the kids are shouty, but you get the message: homemade authenticity for the disaffected and the gullible.
Thirdly, their voter base is solid. They are consistently polling 5.5-7%, retaining around 90% of their voters from the last elections to keep them in third place, while large portions of the electorate are shifting sands. That means that over a third of a million voters have not changed their opinion of Golden Dawn since 2012, in spite of the evidence presented against them.
Fourthly, they are unrepentant. It is true that their political leadership are more bashful about giving Nazi salutes or participating in raids these days; the recent dramatic influx of refugees to the Greek islands that would once have been manna from heaven to their hate campaigns has thankfully not been the subject of quite the amount of grandstanding that it once would have been; only isolated attacks have been recorded against the temporary encampments, and very targeted statements aimed at the local populations. However, yesterday, as Fyssas’s family were preparing to testify against Golden Dawn in court when the trial resumes at the end of the month, Golden Dawn’s leader was given a platform by a well known talk radio host. In the interview he assumed “political responsibility” for Fyssas’s murder on behalf of his party, while, in a distinction of dubious legality, foisted all criminal responsibility on the junior party member who has confessed to wielding the knife.
It is unclear how the elections will turn out, but it is widely predicted that the results will hinge on large numbers of undecided voters, disillusioned by the abandonment of the “OXI” cause by the larger parties (Syriza in particular), a protest vote looking for a home. Golden Dawn are aiming for double digits this time, but just by standing still they could still end up as the official opposition in a “grand coalition scenario”.
Image: Golden Dawn leader in happier (for us) times. AP PHOTO/FOSPHOTOS/ANGELIKI PANAGIOTOU