Supporters of the extreme-right Golden Dawn party in Greece - Reuters - May 6, 2012.
Supporters of the extreme-right Golden Dawn party raise flares as they celebrate polls results in Thessaloniki, northern Greece May 6, 2012. Photo by Reuters
Text size
related tags

Greeks went to the polls Sunday guided by fear, anger and insecurity. The result is a monstrosity that will lead to more fear, more anger and more insecurity.

The results of the Greek elections surprised everyone. The two traditionally large parties, New Democracy and Pasok, who have shared power since 1974, following a seven year dictatorship, struggled to get a mere combined total of 34% of the vote. This is a staggering failure for two parties who used to share about 85% of the vote. Greeks punished both mainstream parties who governed Greece for 38 years and are largely responsible for its financial collapse.

This was not the only surprise. The leftist party SYRIZA, which opposes the austerity measures, and organized strikes and demonstrations over the past two years, won a close second place with 17% of the vote, up from 4% in the 2009 elections. Its leader, Alexis Tsipras, a young populist who has never held a job and barely speaks English, is in favor of Greece playing hardball with its lenders by threatening not to repay its loans. This would be a dangerous gamble for a country that can't pay salaries and pensions at the end of the month without the support of the same lenders Mr. Tsipras is threatening.

A far more worrying surprise was the incredibly strong performance of the neo-Nazi party, Chrysi Avgi (Golden Dawn). Although the polls have been showing Golden Dawn entering Parliament by crossing the required 3% threshold, the 7% it won in Sunday's election has shocked the country's political system and most of the Greek people, who do not subscribe to its neo-Nazi ideology.

Golden Dawn won popular support in a way similar to how Hamas won popular support in Gaza and the Muslim Brotherhood is winning popular support in Egypt: by filling a void that the government didn't. They have been offering "security services" to Greeks living in neighborhoods heavily populated by illegal immigrants, where crime has gotten out of control. With its group of thugs, Golden Dawn escorts the elderly to ATM machines and violently attacks immigrants, legal or illegal.

It is not certain that everyone who voted for Golden Dawn fully grasped its agenda. The Greek people are not neo-Nazis, and it would be unfair to characterize them as such. Golden Dawn’s leader, Nikos Mihaloliakos, gave a triumphant and Hitleresque speech Sunday which shocked Greeks – and the international media. He thanked his black shirt-wearing thugs and vowed to continue the struggle inside and "outside" the Parliament. "Those who betray this country – it's time for them to be afraid. We are coming," he said. Let's hope that "outside the Parliament" does not mean they will expand their violence against immigrants.

Apart from Pasok, the socialist party that paid the price for its gross mismanagement of the financial crisis, the big loser of yesterday's election is Andonis Samaras, the leader of the mainstream right-wing party New Democracy.

Samaras tried to tap the growing trend towards the extreme right, by recruiting extreme rightists into his party himself. Adonis Georgiadis, a populist anti-Semite and Makis Voridis, a former minister, joined Samaras' party a couple of months ago, after jumping ship from LAOS, a populist, nationalistic party founded by a politician known for his anti-Semitic views, George Karatzaferis.

This move probably cost LAOS its place in Parliament, but Voridis’ presence has transformed the once-mainstream New Democracy into an extreme right-wing party, alienating many of its traditional supporters.

Voridis has a long history of founding fascist groups with neo-Nazi leanings, but has used his extensive family connections, the support of parts of the media, his charisma in front of the camera and his debating skills to cleanse his past and hide his present.

Samaras gamble on co-opting the extreme right failed miserably, but it has been a windfall for the far-right: his two neo-Nazis have probably been re-elected, adding two MPs to the 21 or 22 fascist MPs of Golden Dawn.

It is highly unlikely that a stable government can be formed anytime soon. The only possible coalition would be one of New Democracy, Pasok and Democratic Left, which won around 6% of the vote.

The most likely outcome will be a re-election in a month's time, according to the Greek constitution. If the three small liberal parties that together won 6.5% of the vote - but didn't make the 3% threshold separately - join forces, there is a good chance that the next round of elections will lead to a viable coalition government. These small parties share similar ideas for a smaller state, austerity measures and rapid privatizations.

But for now, Greece seems to be lost in the abyss.

Sabby Mionis was born in Athens and moved to Israel in 2006. Founder of Capital Management Advisors and active in Greek business life, he is a former president of Keren Hayesod (the United Israel Appeal) in Athens and now serves as on the UIA Executive and is co-founder of the Israel Center for Better Childhood.