26 Jan 2015

As far-left win in Greece – ‘far-right here to stay’

Their leaders are in prison, but after an election Greece’s far-right Golden Dawn party is now the country’s third biggest party. Experts tell Channel 4 News how it could grow further.

Golden Dawn’s leaders say they are not neo-Nazis, but their “Homeland, honour, Golden Dawn” slogans continue to resonate.

The anti-establishment party has still managed to take third place in elections in this weekend’s election, despite the party’s leader and its most senior officials behind bars in prison.

Far-left anti-establishment party Syriza formed a coalition government, with right-wing Greek Independents after falling just two seats short of an absolute majority.

Seven Golden Dawn politicians – law-makers until yesterday – are currently behind bars on various charges, but the party yesterday still managed 6.28 per cent of the vote, just slightly below their 2012 result of 6.92 per cent.

This means it will keep all but one of its 17 seats in the Greek parliament, but it has failed to repeat its greater success at the European Parliament elections.

Experts tell Channel 4 News this is in fact a tremendous showing for the far-right, and that and that the enormity of Syriza’s plans could make it possible for the party to bounce back and grow.

Campaigning from prison

Dr Daphne Halikiopoulou, a lecturer in comparative politics at the University of Reading, studying the impact of Golden Dawn on party politics in Greece told Channel 4 News: “The result is extremely interesting and significant because Golden Dawn members are imprison, they’ve had hardly any campaigning, and they’ve still come third.

“It’s not looking like the far right has been marginalised in way. Golden Dawn really did come in quietly, and are now saying ‘we have a base’.

“It shows anti-systemic politics is still strong. If you add up all the anti-immigrant parties [in Greece], then they look very strong.”

In a taped statement, the party’s leader celebrated the win, claiming a great victory under circumstances of “slander”, “mudslinging” and “having to campaign by payphone.”

Party leader Nikos Mihaloliakos said: “We have a fresh mandate … everyone fought to keep Golden Dawn away and they lost. Golden Dawn won,” Mihalioliakos said in his taped message.

Unification of the far-right?

Professor Dan Hough, political scientist at the University of Sussex, tells Channel 4 News: “When Syriza find it difficult, when its policies prove unpopular, then it’s prime territory for [Golden Dawn] to bounce back.”

Professor Hough has analysed how left-wing parties govern when they win, and he says that other anti-system parties could benefit from Syriza’s governing coalition and the inevitable problems it will face.

“If Golden Dawn act quickly and sensibly from the fallout then they could make some political capital. Syriza are going into a coalition with a party from the right, so that complicates things further.”

But Professor Hough said that looking across Europe, the far right has a poor record of acting as unifier of dispare right wing and far-right parties. “There aren’t that many Front Nationals [French nationalist party]… unification of the far right is unlikely,” he says.

‘Legitimises xenophobia’

“It is a legitimate party for a number of Greeks and has legitimised xenophobic and racist forces that might have existed in the country but have always been marginalised,” Dr Maria Kyriakidou, lecturer in cultural politics at the University of East Anglia, tells Channel 4 News. “Dealing with these forces will be a hard and long-term task.”

“Given that the new government, however, comprises of two parties with diametrically opposite opinions on these issues, the social problems that have given rise to and support the Golden Dawn and what it stands for are unlikely to be resolved. This, in my opinion, means that Golden Dawn is here to stay.”


“The Golden Dawn party has not increased its electoral influence but it does have strongholds in a few low-income neighbourhoods in Athens,” Dr. Dimitri A. Sotiropoulos, University of Athens and the Hellenic Foundation for European & Foreign Policy, tells Channel 4 News.

“It will be entitled to funding from the state budget as is the case of the rest of Greek parties. It has by now acquired a quite distinct, if not permanent, presence in one of Europe’s parliaments and the European Parliament which itself is a very problematic development. “