Monday, December 2, 2013
Guardian: Golden Dawn is going 17%
Golden Dawn supporters rally for imprisoned leader's release
Neo-fascist party supporters demand release of Nikos Michaloliakos, held since a party member killed a leftwing rapper
Golden Dawn supporters held a massive protest in front of the Greek parliament.
Golden Dawn supporters held a massive protest in front of the the Greek parliament. Photograph: Nicolas Koutsokostas/Demotix/Corbis
Helena Smith in Athens
Sunday 1 December 2013
Thousands of supporters of Greece's neo-fascist Golden Dawn gathered in front of the country's parliament this weekend to demand the release of their imprisoned leader Nikos Michaloliakos, in the party's first high-profile rally in months.
Holding burning torches and blue and white Greek flags, black-clad sympathisers converged on Syntagma Square in Athens on Saturday night almost two months after revelations emerged of the extremists' criminal activities.
"Our day will come," demonstrators chanted in an atmosphere thick with smoke, anger and revenge. "Leader, you have ridiculed the system once again."
Michaloliakos has been in pre-trial custody since the September murder of leftwing rapper Pavlos Fyssas by a self-confessed party member. The killing prompted a government crackdown that unmasked the group as a violent paramilitary organisation.
Thirteen Golden Dawn MPs are either in detention, face charges, or have had their parliamentary immunity lifted as prosecutors build a case that its leadership was involved in attacks against opponents and immigrants.
From his cell in Athens' high security Koyrdallos prison, Michaloliakos has vehemently denied the charges and argued he is a political prisoner.
Police estimated that Saturday's demonstration drew around 5,000 far-rightists although the extremists put the number at 50,000, saying it was a wake-up call to the "so-called democratic establishment".
Successive surveys have shown that while the group took a drubbing in the aftermath of the assassination it has rebounded sharply and remains crisis-hit Greece's third biggest political force.
The drive-by shootings of two Golden Dawn members outside the offices of a local Athens branch reanimated support with one polling firm, Metron Analysis, recently finding that 10.5% of voters would back the party. "The nightmare of Golden Dawn is returning," wrote the Sunday Ethnos, which commissioned the report last week. "It is regaining its strength before the blood of Pavlos Fyssas even dries." A poll conducted for this weekend's Sunday Vima showed 7.9% of Greeks would vote for Golden Dawn if elections were held next week.
"Their operational base may have been hit by the revelations," said Dimitris Psarras, the country's leading authority on the far-rightists. "The attacks by hit squads may have stopped but all the reasons why people voted for Golden Dawn still exist," he said. "The party has clearly not lost support among those badly hit by the country's economic crisis."
Officials in the two-party coalition led by prime minister Antonis Samaras privately admit that secret polls conducted on behalf of the governing New Democrats and Pasok Socialists reveal even higher approval ratings. "One poll showed them getting 17%," said a well-placed insider. "They may have become socially less acceptable but it would be naive to think that Golden Dawn is over."