An assault on political opponents during a televised debate by Golden Dawn's spokesperson raised the issue of the extreme right's popularity in Greece's upcoming elections.
By HK Tzanis for Southeast European Times in Athens -- 15/06/12
The extreme right's Golden Dawn spokesperson Ilias Kasidiaris leaves an Athens courthouse. [Reuters]
Political polarisation in Greece reached a new low when the ultra-nationalist Chryssi Avgi (Golden Dawn) party's spokesperson Ilias Kasidiaris assaulted two female political opponents in a live televised debate last week, raising the issue of whether the incident will hurt or boost Golden Dawn's chances on election day Sunday (June 17th).
Kasidiaris threw a glass of water at one female opponent and slapped another during the private ANT1 TV morning programme in response to criticism of Golden Dawn, effectively shifting the public's focus to his party.
Critics describe Golden Dawn as neo-Nazi and unabashedly fascist, while its members reject the moniker, calling it a "patriotic movement." Some analysts say the Kasidiaris incident -- the recording of which went viral on the internet -- may help the party make further gains Sunday.
"I have heard many -- young people, in fact -- say that before the [first round] May 6th election they would vote for Chryssi Avgi so that finally someone would go to parliament and beat up the politicians," one of Greece's leading columnists, Paschos Mandravelis, wrote in the daily Kathimerini.
Another well-known columnist, Yiannis Pretenteris, wrote in the daily Ta Nea the blame should fall on the nearly half-a-million voters who propped up Golden Dawn.
They constitute 7% of the vote the party picked up in the inconclusive May 6th election, netting 21 MPs in the 300-seat parliament.
Kasidiaris himself easily won a seat -- receiving more than 15,000 votes in his greater Athens election district.
Ilias Kasidiaris (second from left), spokesman for Greece's far-right party Golden Dawn, slaps Communist Party deputy Liana Kanelli during a televised debate June 7th. [Reuters]
By contrast, in the October 2009 election, Golden Down received less than 1% of the general vote.
"It is the fault of those who legitimised all these Kasidiaris-types with their extreme [behaviour], hysteria and their nonsense against our democratic political system: of all, who, in their irrationality or despair, thought or shouted 'let the parliament burn'," Pretenteris said.
Pretenteris further criticised voters, who, in their desire to oppose what they call a Fourth Reich abroad -- referring to the IMF-ECB-EC troika -- fail to see a Third Reich marching in front of their eyes at home.
The lack of a definitive answer about the Golden Dawn's popularity is due to a law preventing publication of opinion polls two weeks prior to an election, legislation that is harshly derided by polling firms and much of the media.
Most pollsters agree the party's debut on the central political scene was fuelled by seething public anger over two-and-a-half years of austerity measures and a perception of a loose immigration policy through which many people from the Third World have entered Greece.
Kasidiaris and Golden Dawn continue to use the spotlight to their political advantage. Kasidiaris filed a lawsuit against the two political opponents he clashed with on television, allegedly for being assaulted and insulted.
Previously, he evaded the 48-hour in flagrante delicto period for immediate trial after an Athens prosecutor ordered his arrest on assault charges, and now faces a future court date after formal charges are filed.