Golden Dawn, the neo-Nazi, anti-immigrant party that had shocked Greek politics by evolving from a marginal group into Greece’s third-largest party during the country’s economic crisis, was knocked out of Parliament in Sunday’s national election.
With more than 99 percent of precincts reporting, Golden Dawn had 2.95 percent of the votes, just under the 3 percent threshold needed to be represented in Parliament.
The government’s official pollster declared that the party had no chance to enter Parliament, and party leader Nikos Mihaloliakos admitted as much when he declared in a fiery concession speech that “Golden Dawn is not finished.”
Golden Dawn had 18 lawmakers in the outgoing 300-member Parliament, having won 6.99 percent of the votes in the last national election, in September 2015.
“We are sending a message to our enemies and so-called friends: Golden Dawn is not finished; get over it. The fight for nationalism continues. We return where we became strong: on the streets and squares, in a tough struggle against Bolshevism and the coming savage capitalism,” Mihaloliakos told a crowd of supporters.
He attacked both the outgoing prime minister, leftist Alexis Tsipras, and his incoming successor, conservative Kyriakos Mitsotakis. Mihaloliakos ended his speech with his customary “Hail victory!” — a direct reference to the Nazis’ “Sieg heil” salutation.
Founded in 1985, Golden Dawn was known for years as a collection of violent youths obsessed with a military bearing and ready to attack political opponents and then increasingly migrants, as Greece became a destination for the latter.
Golden Dawn’s appeal long remained insignificant, polling just 0.29% in the October 2009 election. But as Greece’s economic crisis unfolded, the party achieved a breakthrough in 2010 municipal elections, getting its first elected officials and scoring best in neighborhoods with a heavy migrant presence.
It won its first seats in Parliament in 2012, and in four successive national elections held from 2012 to 2015 it got around 7 percent of the votes. Its high point came in the 2014 European elections when it polled 9.39 percent to become Greece’s third-largest party — a position it retained national elections held in January and September 2015.
Golden Dawn’s weakening become apparent in May’s European election when it got only 4.87 percent and slipped into fifth place among Greece’s parties. A new party on the far right, Greek Solution, less extreme and apparently less menacing, may have siphoned away rightist support. It is projected to have 10 seats in the new Parliament.
Golden Dawn also faces potential legal problems. A trial at which one member is accused of murdering an activist musician in September 2013 and several prominent party officials, including Mihaloliakos, face charges of operating a criminal organization is wrapping up and any convictions would hit the party hard.
Still, many doubt Golden Dawn will shrink back to its previous marginal status. In the European elections, the party’s share of the vote among 17- to 24-year-olds was about 13 percent.
Some recent statements by prominent party leader Ilias Kasidiaris, until recently also a lawmaker and a candidate for mayor of Athens in May, indicate that Golden Dawn may seek to rebrand itself as a less extreme organization, aligned with European eurosceptic or alt-right forces.
He has expressed admiration for Italy’s anti-immigrant deputy premier, Mateo Salvini, and spoken favorably of the largely eurosceptic Eastern European “Visegrad countries” — Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia.