If You’re Not Shocked, You’re Not Watching
There is a chance that by the end of this year, every major player on the world stage will have a new leader or leader-elect. Aside from the US elections, France just ousted Sarkozy, Israel has called for election, Britain recently held municipal elections, there are rumblings of an imminent leadership change in China, Kim Jong-Il died earlier this year and Iran is holding elections for their president. Like a rare conjunction of stars of planets, almost every major country with even the slightest dash of democracy will have an election.
There was one election that had many watching with baited breath. Greece, which has seen nothing but sustained economic calamity for the better part of four years, held parliamentary elections yesterday. With an economy that has contracted by an astounding 20% since 2008, stakes were high and the seven recognized parties The results are nothing less than troubling. The ruling coalition, which had managed to create some modicum of much-needed stability, suffered a staggering defeat at the hands of a population tired of austerity, frugality and Greece’s dire economic status. In its stead, a motley crew of far-left and far-right wing parties have won enough seats to seriously complicate any efforts to build a moderate governing coalition favorable to both economic growth and international lenders.
Of all the votes gained, the most shocking was the emergence of Golden Dawn. Golden Dawn (Greek: Χρυσή Αυγή) is a far-right, ultranationalist party. In its manifesto, the party declares itself open only to “Aryans in blood and Greeks in descent” and describes itself as a nationalistic, popular movement of the working class. In addition, the party has implemented the Roman stiff-armed salute, an iconic aspect of Naziism, into their own party structure and ceremonies. After a brief flirtation with paganism, akin to Heinrich Himmler’s fascination with the occult, the party reoriented itself to a fierce brand of Eastern Orthodoxy. At a recent press conference following the stunning gains by the party, Golden Dawn supporters demanded journalists stand at attention when party leadership entered the room.
Members of Golden Dawn have been accused for years of supporting gangs that engage in politically-motivated violence during protests and demonstrations, as well as being virulently anti-immigrant. In fact, several founding members of Golden Dawn were part of the Greek Volunteer Guard (GVG), a force of Greek volunteers who fought in the Bosnian War on the side of the Bosnian Serbs. Early founders of the party were present with Ratko Mladic’s forces at the infamous Srebrenica massacre, the worst attrocity in Europe since the cessation of the Second World War. In the aftermath of the mass killings, the GVG raised a Greek flag over the ruined city before marching out. While Golden Dawn claims that its current members and leadership have no connection with the GVG, others have expressed their doubts.
That a right-leaning party was elected into a legislature during economic duress is no great surprise. The election of Fidesz in Hungary on the promise of economic vitality and national glory has resulted in a troubling rollback of liberty and a worsening economic situation. In Spain, the People’s Party won a convincing majority of the Spanish parliament. Even the midterm elections in the United States saw the Republican party gain seats in Congress and a number of state legislatures. However, even Fidesz pales in comparison to outright, blatant fascist character of Golden Dawn in Greece. A party with unabashed adoration of the trappings of National Socialism would be illegal in most any other European nation, where the specter of a goose-stepping war machine has not been fully exorcised. However, Greece seems to have forgotten the horrors it suffered under Nazi occupation, and decided to give enough seats to Golden Dawn to enable it to become the fulcrum in any future governing coalition.
It remains to be seen if Golden Dawn will see members jump ship, or if it will gain more voters with its nationalistic tirades. Either way, the fact that such a party was elected in the first place is a testament to the desperate state of Greece and the profound alienation the people there feel as their nation stays barely one step ahead of utter collapse.
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