Different fashion styles, same Fascist/Neo-Nazi policies: Golden Dawn ditches boots for suits in European election makeover
The Greek Neo-Nazi party Golden Dawn is softening its image and tempering its rhetoric before Sunday’s European elections. Replacing boots with suits, the party has sought to shed its menacing persona, fielding middle-class professionals in an effort to broaden its appeal. Among its 42 candidates are university professors, lawyers, surgeons, business people and a former Nato commander.
"Golden Dawn is in a new phase of development due to Greece's social and economic crisis,” said Giorgos Kyrtsos, a political commentator and European parliament candidate for the ruling centre-right New Democracy. “With the middle class determined to avenge the government for policies that have seen its living standards collapse, the far right has understood strong-arm tactics are no longer necessary.”
The makeover offers an image far removed from the black-shirted assault squads that have come to be associated with a party accused by the authorities of being a criminal organisation.
A number of the movement’s leaders, including its founder, Nikos Michaloliakos, have spent eight months in prison pending trial. Many had thought the crackdown, spurred by the murder of an anti-fascist rapper, would be the demise of a group that five years ago took just 0.2% of the vote. But efforts at cleaning up the party appear to have paid off. As in Hungary, where the neo-fascist Jobbik party increased its share of the vote in parliamentary elections last month by projecting itself as more moderate, the new-look Golden Dawn got its first endorsement in local elections last weekend.
Despite facing government accusations of involvement in murder, extortion and racist violence – and the discovery of portraits of Hitler and Nazi paraphernalia in the homes of Michaloliakos and other MPs – the ultra-nationalists clawed back support with a surprisingly strong performance.
In Athens, the area worst hit by record unemployment and six straight years of recession, Ilias Kasidiaris, Golden Dawn’s mayoral candidate, won 16.1% of the vote – more than double the party’s showing in general elections in June 2012. Although the former commanderarmy commando, whose left shoulder bears a large swastika tattoo, failed to make it into Sunday’s runoff, his success was echoed in working-class suburbs, where the party polled more than 20%.
"Golden Dawn is the only political force in the country that is rising," said Kasidiaris, whose personal ratings soared after he assaulted two leftwing female MPs during a televised debate two years ago. “Greeks recognised that we have become their voice, the voice of truth, in the corrupt parliament.”
But it is the far-right party’s growing appeal to what was once the country’s well-heeled bourgeoisie that has most surprised analysts.
In Kolonaki, an upmarket Athens district of high-end boutiques, where women walk toy dogs and young, designer-clad men spill out of cafes and bars, the extremists attracted 13.7% of the vote. Along its high street, the talk this week was almost exclusively of Golden Dawn – and how it had succeeded in inveigling its way into the homes of local people. Had it found fertile ground only in Greece’s economic crisis, or was its ideology of hate – for immigrants, gay people and Jews – the draw for voters?
Entrepreneur Dimitris Deliyannis, who plans to vote for the group, thought it was a bit of both. The recent arrival in Kolonaki of beggars, homeless people and foreigners selling flowers had eroded people’s sense of security, he said. “It’s a protest vote. We’re not fascists or Nazis, but this is a system that is totally rotten, totally corrupt, that stops you in your tracks and lets immigrants get away with murder,” he said. “And because we know the system hates Golden Dawn and has used everything at its disposal to eradicate Golden Dawn we are going to hit the system with it.”
Yannis Kollides, a legal adviser at a government ministry, agreed. Like his friend he is, at 50, old enough to remember the return of democracy to Greece in 1974, but too young to recall the preceding seven-year dictatorship. “What I feel is rage and Golden Dawn is the answer to it,” he said. “And look, they’re nice guys now. If they get into the European parliament they can help change the policies of austerity and all the submission, exploitation and globalisation that has got us in this mess.”
Human rights groups are alarmed at Golden Dawn’s rise. The far right’s ability, Europe-wide, to move into the political mainstream on a platform of hate has raised fears of alliances being formed that will ultimately undermine democratic norms from within.
"It is just as dangerous when parties like Golden Dawn and Jobbik try to sanitise themselves to attract votes," said Sonni Efron of Human Rights First, who is visiting Greece as part of a team. "It enables voters who are most angry about economic problems and want to cast a protest vote, or punish those in power, to pretend that these parties are not really fascist," she said.
For seasoned Golden Dawn watchers, the party’s transformation is no surprise. In 2007, Michaloliakos, an open admirer of the military junta that once ruled Greece, wrote in the party magazine: “We will appear as the good guys. We will use the political system but our goal will be to use it as a Trojan horse to conquer the system … just as Odysseus did when he massacred the Trojans.”
Gay Rights Legislation in Europe
Please spread the word.
For more information please check out these links:
- Prime Minister’s adviser sparks outrage for kicking mourner amid Soma protests
- Turkish PM cites 19th-century Britain to prove mine accidents are ‘typical’
- AS IT HAPPENED: Soma mining disaster becomes worst in Turkey’s history
- Turkish Prime Minister Erdoğan slapped me involuntarily, says Soma man
- Miners used their last breath in turns in Soma’s sole refuge chamber, rescuers say
- İzmir police intervene as thousands protest Turkish mine blast
Yet another mass protest is rocking the country.
A fresh new wave of protests is rocking Turkey, as tens of thousands march on the streets to demonstrate against the government. But unlike what’s going on in Ukraine and Venezuela, the protests in Turkey mark a second, renewed round of protests that began last summer. If you have not caught up on the latest developments, or don’t know what the people are protesting about, here are 11 photos that sum up what’s been happening on the ground:
Protests began with the death of a teenager named Berkin Elvan, who was in a nine-month coma after being injured during last year’s government rallies. Thousands attended his funeral in Istanbul and marched in the streets afterwards.
Tens of thousands are also protesting across Turkey, especially in big cities such as Ankara and Izmir.
The government’s response has been to send riot police to clash with the protesters. The tactics have mostly been restricted to tear gas, water cannons and beatings.
It seems that police may have forgotten that’s how Elvan died — he suffered a head injury when he was hit in the head with a tear gas canister. He was passing by the protests to go buy bread for his family.
On Wednesday, a protester died from a head injury while a police officer also passed away from a heart attack
Students across the country are also organizing school boycotts and sit-ins.
Elvan’s death marks the eighth casualty resulting from last year’s protests.
Protests began last year over the development of Gezi Park in Istanbul, although it quickly spread into a widespread anti-government demonstration.
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has yet to comment on Elvan’s death.
(Reuters) - Arm raised in a Nazi-style salute, the leader of Greece’s fastest-rising political party surveyed hundreds of young men in black T-shirts as they exploded into cheers. Their battle cry reverberated through the night: Blood! Honour! Golden Dawn!
"We may sometimes raise our hand this way, but these hands are clean, not dirty. They haven’t stolen," shouted Nikolaos Mihaloliakos as he stood, floodlit, in front of about 2,000 diehard party followers filling an open-air amphitheatre at Goudi park, a former military camp near Athens.
"We were dozens, then a few hundred. Now we’re thousands and it’s only the beginning," cried the leader of Golden Dawn, a far-right party that is seeing its support soar amid Greece’s economic collapse. Last month’s rally revealed the party, which describes itself as nationalist and pledges to expel all illegal foreigners, has a new-found sense of triumph, even a swagger, that some find menacing.
Riding a wave of public anger at corrupt politicians, austerity and illegal immigration, Golden Dawn has seen its popularity double in a few months. A survey by VPRC, an independent polling company, put the party’s support at 14 percent in October, compared with the seven percent it won in June’s election.
Political analysts see no immediate halt to its meteoric ascent. They warn that Golden Dawn, which denies being neo-Nazi despite openly adopting similar ideology and symbols, may lure as many as one in three Greek voters.
"As long as the political system doesn’t change and doesn’t put an end to corruption, this phenomenon will not be stemmed," said Costas Panagopoulos, chief of ALCO, another independent polling company. "Golden Dawn can potentially tap up to 30 percent of voters."
The party now lies third in the polls, behind conservative New Democracy and the main opposition, the radical leftist Syriza. Violent behavior by Golden Dawn members, who often stroll through run-down Athens neighborhoods harassing immigrants, seems to boost rather than hurt the party’s standing.
As the government imposes yet more austerity on an enraged public, the collapse of the ruling conservative-leftist coalition remains on the political horizon. The possibility that Golden Dawn could capture second place in a snap election is slim but real, say pollsters.
Analysts believe that, ultimately, the party lacks the broad appeal and structure needed to gain mass traction. In World War Two Greece suffered massacres and famine in its fight against the Nazis, and the spectre of the 1967-1974 military junta still hangs heavy over its modern politics. So why are many Greeks now turning to a party whose emblems and rhetoric, critics say, resemble Hitler’s?
Golden Dawn denies any such resemblance. In an interview with Reuters at an open-air cafe in the Athens district of Papagou, a traditional neighbourhood for military personnel, Ilias Panagiotaros, a Golden Dawn lawmaker and spokesman, explained the party’s appeal. “Golden Dawn is the only institution in this country that works. Everything else has stopped working or is partially working,” he said.
"We operate like a well-organized army unit, because the military is the best institution in any country." Greece’s far-right party goes on the offensive (PDF) link.reuters.com/rut83t > Greece’s other debt problem (PDF) link.reuters.com/ryq82t
Short, squat and combative, Mihaloliakos once praised Hitler and denied the Nazi gas chambers existed. A former special forces commando in the Greek army, he met the leaders of the Greek military junta while in prison for carrying illegal weapons and explosives as a member of a far-right group in 1979.
When pressed on such issues, Golden Dawn says they are all in the past and it is looking to the future.
For years after Mihaloliakos founded the party in 1985 it remained marginal: in the 2009 elections Golden Dawn won just 0.29 percent of the vote, or fewer than 20,000 votes. Yet in June, the party amassed votes from across the political spectrum, wiping out the more moderate nationalist LAOS party and winning support from as far left as the communist KKE party, pollsters said.
Now it is stealing votes from New Democracy, which flip-flopped on the international bailout keeping Greece afloat and, after coming to power, imposed harsh cuts instead of relief measures. Though Golden Dawn attracts mainly urban male voters up to 35 years old, the party is also gaining its share of women and the elderly, primarily those suffering unemployment or falling living standards, say pollsters.
Part of its appeal is down to the sort of welfare work that Hamas, the Palestinian party, does in Gaza. Golden Dawn distributes food in poor neighborhoods, helps old ladies get money safely from ATMs - and has also set up a Greeks-only blood bank.
A short film showed highlights of the year, which included attacks on immigrant street vendors, clashes with police outside parliament and food distribution to the poor. When the film showed Golden Dawn lawmaker Ilias Kasidiaris slapping a female communist lawmaker, Liana Kanelli, across the face on live TV, youths bellowed profanities against the victim.
"Golden Dawn’s target is simple. We want the absolute majority in parliament so we can replace the constitution with our own," Kasidiaris told the crowd. “It will then be easy to immediately arrest and deport all illegal immigrants.”
Pollsters were ready to write off the party when Kasidiaris slapped Kanelli after she swatted him with some papers during a dispute he was having with a Syriza lawmaker. Kasidiaris says he was defending himself; Kanelli says she was coming to the aid of the Syriza lawmaker after Kasidiaris had thrown water at her.
Painting Golden Dawn as an aberration stemming from the financial crisis, pollsters said the party’s support would dwindle. The opposite happened - the party gained 3 to 4 percentage points in polls as a direct result of the Kasidiaris incident.
In parliament Golden Dawn’s 18 lawmakers cluster in a rear corner of the marble-covered hall, but make no attempt to hide their ideology. Recently, Panagiotaros asked the welfare ministry to find out which babies admitted to state day-care centers were actually Greek. Eleni Zaroulia, wife of party leader Mihaloliakos and also a lawmaker, described immigrants as “every sort of sub-human who invades our country carrying all sorts of diseases.”
Artemis Matthaiopoulos, another Golden Dawn lawmaker, was formerly the bassist for a heavy metal band called Pogrom, which produced songs such as “Speak Greek or Die” and “Auschwitz”.
Rights groups say racist attacks in Greece have been surging, but that many immigrants are reluctant to report them because of their illegal status or mistrust of the police.
Like other victims, he accuses Greek police of supporting Golden Dawn and hindering immigrants in reporting attacks. In a July report, advocacy group Human Rights Watch said gangs of Greeks were regularly attacking immigrants with impunity and authorities were ignoring victims or discouraging them from filing complaints.
Greek police deny accusations they are soft on, or even sometimes work with, Golden Dawn. Public Order Minister Nikos Dendias has vehemently denied reports that police were beating up illegal immigrants and has threatened to sue British newspaper The Guardian over the issue. He is at such odds with Golden Dawn that the party ridiculed him during the youth festival at Goudi park.
But a member of the police officers’ union, speaking to Reuters on condition of anonymity, admitted there was some sympathy for the party among the ranks. “There are some among the police who ideologically support Golden Dawn and a handful that have been violent against illegal immigrants,” the unionist said. “But these cases are being probed by justice.”
BUCHAREST (Reuters) - Romanian President Traian Băsescu survived a referendum on his impeachment on Sunday after the voter turnout fell short of the required level and derailed an effort by his opponents to oust him from office.
Leftist Prime Minister Victor Ponta's efforts to unseat the conservative Băsescu have brought a stern dressing-down from the European Union, which accused him of undermining the rule of lawand intimidating judges.
The row over Băsescu has delayed policymaking, sent the leu currency plunging to record lows, and pushed up borrowing costs. It also raised concern about the future of Romania's 5 billion euro ($6.2 billion) International Monetary Fund-led aid deal.
The election bureau said the voter turnout was 46 percent, below the 50 percent threshold Ponta’s leftist Social Liberal Union (USL) needed to make the referendum valid.
Exit polls showed more than 80 percent of those who went to the ballot box had voted to remove the president.
"The flame of democracy has remained alight. Romanians have rejected the coup d’etat," Băsescu said.
Ponta, whose government took office in May, suspended Băsescu and held the referendum to seek popular backing for the impeachment for overstepping his powers. The president is unpopular for backing austerity and for perceptions of cronyism.
h/t: Yahoo! News
Romania’s parliament voted Friday to impeach President Traian Băsescu in a spiralling political crisis that has raised warnings in the West that the country’s democracy is under threat.
A total of 258 lawmakers out of 432 voted in favour of the move against the centre-right Băsescu, said Dan Radu Rusanu, a senator with the governing coalition, but the impeachment will only take effect if approved in a referendum within 30 days.
Two decades after Romania emerged from communist dictatorship, it has been thrown into turmoil by a bitter feud between Băsescu and his arch-rival, the centre-left Prime Minister Victor Ponta.
h/t: The Raw Story