Greece’s far-right Golden Dawn party is again being labeled “neo-Nazi” after its leader and other senior members were arrested for alleged links to the murder of a popular leftist singer.
Despite dramatic images of Golden Dawn leader Nikos Michaloliakos shouting defiantly while being led away on charges of belonging to a criminal organization, the party continues to draw support from more than six percent of Greeks in public opinion polls.
According to Spyros Economides of the London School of Economics, the continued support says a lot about the depth of Greece’s economic problems.
“The nature of the crisis, the scope of the crisis, has meant that a large number of people from all walks of life and all ages have decided that this is the kind of organization that best represents their prospects,” he said.
Golden Dawn wants to reject the tough conditions of Greece’s financial bailout, accusing other political parties of corruption and incompetence, and blaming immigrants for many of the country’s problems.
Although the party has long been accused of intimidation and violence, Dimitar Bechev of the European Council on Foreign Relations says little has been done to address the issue.
“Authorities overlooked earlier incidents of crimes perpetrated by either members or people connected to the organization,” he said. “The level of tolerance was set very high.”
Last month, on this street in an Athens suburb, a man who says he is a Golden Dawn supporter allegedly killed popular leftist rap performer Pavlos Fissas.
Party officials have denied any connection, but a police raid on Golden Dawn offices found items that appear to indicate the party was working with corrupt police officers.
That created a backlash, and the party’s popularity fell sharply from a high of 13 percent to about 6.5 percent.
Professor Economides says frustrated Greeks who looked to Golden Dawn for help are starting to realize just who they have been supporting.
“Ideologically, there’s no doubt that they are a neo-Nazi party,” said Economides. “Even the party leader, when he was being taken away to be imprisoned, was shouting the Greek equivalent of ‘sieg heil.’ If that’s not a giveaway in terms of this being a neo-Nazi party, I’m not sure what is.”
Opponents of Golden Dawn are making their views clear, particularly after the killing of Fissas, whose funeral drew a huge crowd of mourners. But Golden Dawn is vowing to fight on, and with Greece’s economy still in shambles, the country’s turmoil is far from over.