The Greek far right gets the NYTimes treatment

In advance of the May 6 legislative elections in Greece, The New York Times takes a look at Golden Dawn (Χρυσή Αυγή), the neo-fascist — even neo-Nazi (just take a look at the party’s flags and think about which infamous 20th century group they appear to emulate) — party that is polling up to 5% in polls, which would entitle it to representation for the first time in the Hellenic Parliament.

Make no mistake, this gang makes Marine Le Pen look warm and cuddly and downright pro-immigration.

The piece notes that the entire terrain of Greek politics has moved far to the right on immigration issues, in no small part because of the traction of Golden Dawn:

Experts say the group is thriving where the Greek state seems absent, the most virulent sign of how the economic collapse has empowered fringe groups while eroding the political mainstream, a situation that some Greek news outlets have begun comparing to Weimar Germany.

“Greek society at this point is a laboratory of extreme-right-wing evolution,” said Nicos Demertzis, a political scientist at the University of Athens. “We are going through an unprecedented financial crisis; we are a fragmented society without strong civil associations” and with “generalized corruption in all the administration levels.”

With what critics say is a poorly policed border with Turkey, Greece is seen as an entry point for illegal immigrants, some of them asylum seekers but most intent on moving to more promising economic terrain in Northern and Western Europe. But many of the immigrants remain in Greece or are returned there after being deported from other countries in Europe. This has stoked fears here of an onslaught of illegal immigrants, who economists say bear little or no responsibility for Greece’s economic troubles but who make easy scapegoats for politicians across the spectrum.

The piece also notes Golden Dawn’s nostalgia for the military junta that ruled Greece from 1967 to 1974, and it quotes Ilias Kasidiaris, a prominent Golden Dawn official calling the Holocaust a “lie,” encouraging the immediate deportation of all illegal immigrants and proposing that Greece plant mines along its border with Turkey.

The party’s leader, Nikos Michaloliakos, who was elected to the Athens City Council in 2010 — and was caught making a Nazi salute soon thereafter — has, perhaps skillfully, weaved a homegrown Greek nationalist message that is both anti-German and neo-Nazi in character:

In an interview, Mr. Michaloliakos called the group “national socialists” and said it was concerned about crime and the financial crisis.

He said that the group opposed Greece’s agreement with its foreign lenders and that the country’s political leadership was too beholden to “international bankers.” The Nazi salutes by Golden Dawn members were not official policy, he said, adding that “we can’t control thousands” of people.

Under the Greek proportional representation system, a party will receive no seats in parliament unless its national vote exceeds 3%.  It’s a lamentable sign of the fraying social contract that Golden Dawn seems on the cusp of winning enough support to enter parliament for the first time.

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