The boxes are packed with warm clothes, the plastic bags full of long-life food. There is even a teddy bear in tow. All sit piled in a rickety blue van, winding its way through Athens to be delivered to the Greek capital’s needy. Behind the aid is not a humanitarian organisation but Greece’s ultranationalist party, Chrysi Avgi – or Golden Dawn. Their critics call them violent extremists. But they are keen to show off their soft side – and it wins votes.
One of the recipients is 76-year-old Katerina Karousi. She breaks down in tears as she talks of battling with cancer.
“Why not vote for Golden Dawn?” she asks. “They’re helping us, so I should give them something in return.”
But beyond the benevolent facade is a party that strikes fear into many here. With a virulent anti-immigrant line, Golden Dawn are often labelled neo-Nazis. The leader was filmed making a Hitler salute in a town council meeting and the party logo has been likened to a swastika, though officials maintain it is the ancient Greek meander symbol.
Despite it all, Greeks are flocking to Golden Dawn, spurred by financial angst and deep disillusionment with mainstream politicians. The party scored just 0.29% of the vote in the last election in 2009. Now polls give them over 5% – enough to enter parliament for the first time…
I seem to remember something about how the European Union was supposed to act as a bulwark against extremism. Oh well.
One number to watch on Sunday will be whether PASOK (on the left) and New Democracy (on the right), the two mainstream parties (they were also the two parties that did so much to reduce Greece to its current state) will get more than fifty percent of the vote between them.
The Guardian reports as follows:
Up until 20 April when polling data was banned in line with Greek election law, surveys indicated the country’s two mainstream forces combined could win less than 50% of the vote – compared to the near 80% they captured in the last election in 2009. Instead, Greeks appear more likely to cast ballots in favour of a range of extremist fringe parties on the left and right with hardline communists and other radical leftists set to gather as much as 30% of the vote.
That does not mean, however, that establishment parties will not form the next government. The WSJ sets out some of the election rules here, and this seems to be worth noting:
The electoral system is a so-called “reinforced proportional representation” system. The “reinforced” bit means that the party with the most votes automatically gets a bonus of 50 seats [the Greek parliament has 300 seats].
And France, of course, is voting on the same day.