The aftermath of June’s fresh elections in Greece saw the formation of a three-party coalition government. The election also saw the neo-Nazi party “Golden Dawn” come fifth place in the polls, and gain seats in the national parliament. Alexandros Sakellariou and the the Greek MYPLACE team at Panteion University of Social And Political Sciences discuss neo-Nazi influence, austerity measures and racism following the Greek elections.

Neo-Nazism…

It has been more than two months after the elections of 17th of June and the formation of the three-party coalition government. In the meantime we got some very interesting data derived from the exit polls regarding the neo-Nazi party “Golden Dawn” (ChryssiAygi), which received 6.9% of the votes and came fifth in the national elections, surpassing the Democratic Left, which now participates in the government (6.3%) and the Communist Party (4.5%). According to these data, Golden Dawn was voted for more by men (10%) than by women (4%) and this was the highest difference between the two sexes compared to all other parties. In the age category 18-24 Golden Dawn was in the second place with 13% after the Coalition of the Left (SYRIZA) with 37%. In the age category 25-34 SYRIZA was again first with 33% and Golden Dawn second in the same place with the conservatives (New Democracy) with 16%. In the following categories Golden Dawn is in the third or fourth and fifth place.

It is very interesting that in the age category 65+ is in the seventh place with only 2%, which according to our view means that older people who know what Nazism and Fascism did to Greece did not vote for them. This perhaps is a very important issue which is related to memory (remembering and forgetting), but also points out the lack of historical knowledge on the part of the young people. The educational background of the Golden Dawn’s voters is 9% middle, 3% low and 6% higher education; the majority of them are unemployed (12%), 11% are working in the private sector and 11% are self-employed and employers, 7% are university students, 6% are working in the public sector, 3% are pensioners and 3% housekeepers. 8% of them are from semi-urban areas while 7% are from rural and only 6% from urban areas.

When they were asked why they voted for Golden Dawn, 29% of them spontaneously responded because of indignation and in order to punish the politicians, 27% because of the immigration problem and the control of the borders, 14% because they agree with the party’s political program and declaration and 13% for patriotic and national reasons.

However, apart from these numbers Golden Dawn members have been very active since their parliamentary entrance . They are using the financial support they receive as a parliamentary party in order to give food to those people who need it, provided that they are Greek! (See the poster below from their webpage):

Furthermore, they created a blood bank in many Greek cities, in order to collect blood, but again only for Greek people (See the poster below).

We should add that in the course of our internet ethnography about Golden Dawn we have  seen that their official webpage is very active with many posts and announcements being
uploaded on a daily basis. In addition, their youth’s webpage is also very rich with texts, photos and videos, but what is quite surprising is their women’s blog, which is very strenuous and seem to show that many young women are taking part in the organization’s activities (See the picture below from the blog).

…Racism…

The most alarming ‘activity’, though, is the attacks against the immigrants. Even though no one has been arrested, the incidents have been augmented during the last weeks in Athens and other cities. In August the 10th around ten o’clock at night, during the Ramadan month, about five motorcycles attacked a Muslim prayer house in Piraeus throwing smoke bombs. Fortunately enough the people inside managed to get out without any injuries. In another similar attack on Saturday the 11th of August, another group of motorcycles attacked again a prayer house. Some of them entered the place and vandalized it writing on the walls: “Fuck the Koran”, “Fuck Allah”, “Mohamed was Gay”, “Hellas” and they also pictured Christian crosses (See the picture below).

Finally, there are many reports regarding racist attacks against immigrants from people with black t-shirts (like those worn by the Golden Dawn members). In one of these attacks a young Iraqi was killed in the center of Athens on August the 12th, at around 04.30 in the morning by a group of people who before him attacked two other immigrants, one from Romania and one from Morocco. Their tactic is to get close to their victims and be friendly asking them where they come from and then they attack them. Anti-racist organizations report that many incidents of this kind occur on a weekly basis, but the problem is that the police were unable until now to find the suspects, not even in one case. Without any intention of implying a close relationship between the police and the neo-Nazi party, even though there have been many accusations in the last years, it is worth mentioning that during the last elections in the special electoral departments for policemen Golden Dawn received from 17 to 23%, more than three times up from the party’s national percentage. One last alarming event was that Golden Dawn is organizing Security Battalions in Peloponnese (like those during the Civil War) against the immigrants. The local representative made a call to all the inhabitants from 15 to 70 years old to be alarmed and participate in these forces. He also attacked immigrants, accusing them of being responsible for the delinquency in the region, arguing that “the illegal immigrant intruders are responsible for the high rates of criminality in the area” and also added that “the gypsies are a delinquency plague for the Greeks”.

…Austerity

Within this social and political climate new austerity measures of more than 11.5 billion Euros are ready to be applied for the years to come (2013-2014). According to very recent information, due to the five year recession, which is going to be continued, more billions are necessary in order to achieve the financial goals of the economic program (approx. 13.5 billion). Among other measures new cuts are planned for wages in pubic sector and in pensions. It has to be noted that according to Eurostat Greece is now in the first place of youth unemployment (15-24) surpassing Spain, with 52.8 to 52.7% (April data). However, the Hellenic Statistical Authority published its May 2012 data which showed that youth unemployment was 54.9%. Furthermore, according to the first data from the last census (2011) another issue seems to arise: the decrease in the birth rate. As a consequence, Greece’s population declined by about 300,000 people and this is connected with the economic crisis as there is a decrease of around 15% of births in the maternity homes and also a decrease in the number of weddings. In addition, many immigrants especially from the Balkans and especially from Albania have returned to their homelands. Some estimate that about 100,000 have already left and this is going to be proven in the beginning of the new school period. Finally, many Greeks have decided to immigrate to other countries. In 2010 5,000 immigrated to Germany, and in 2011 this number rose to 9,000 and was about 15,000 this June. The German Statistical Authority stated that immigration from Greece rose by 90% in 2011 and they speak of about 23,800 new immigrants (Newspaper Kathimerini, August 18, 2012).

It is obvious, that because of the austerity summer vacations were a dream for many of the people of Athens. The majority of them visited friends and relatives in their villages and it was the first time that no one could say that Athens was empty during August. I personally stay every August in Athens and this time was more crowded than ever before, and not only by tourists. As a newspaper article put it “August is no longer a vacation month” (To Vima, August 12, 2012). Based on the last study of the Consumer’s Institute 69% of the Greeks will not go on vacation this summer and those who managed to go reduced their stay from 2 or 3 weeks to 7 or 10 days the most. Some of them also decided to take their vacation leave and stay in Athens and just go for walks and meet their friends.

Even though the above description is not very optimistic, it gives us the opportunity to conduct our MYPLACE survey and our ethnographies in very interesting times and in a social milieu, which is very fruitful for social research.

This article originally appeared on the Project MYPLACE blog.

The MYPLACE Team at Panteion University of Social and Political Sciences of Athens is made up of Alexandra Koronaiou, Irini Chiotaki-Poulou, Evangelos Lagos, and Alexandros Sakellariou. For more information on the MYPLACE project, visit the project’s website: HERE

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Note:  This article gives the views of the author, and not the position of EUROPP – European Politics and Policy, nor of the London School of Economics.

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About the authors

Alexandros Sakellariou – Panteion University
Alexandros Sakellariou is currently working as a researcher at Panteion University of Social and Political Sciences in the European Research Program Memory, Youth, Political Legacy and Civic Engagement (MYPLACE), which is funded by the European Commission (fp7).  His research interests include the history and sociology of religion, sociology of youth and political sociology. He also works as a scientific associate at the Greek Historical Evangelical Archive, a non-profit organization, which studies the history of Protestantism in Greece.

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