Greek democracy in a “critical” condition

 

More rallies took place in major cities across Greece on Wednesday to protest against the stabbing of the anti-fascist hip hop musician Pavlos Fyssas, who was killed by a supporter of the country’s far-right extremist party, Golden Dawn, last week.

The Greek civil servants’ union, ADEDY, which declared a 48-hour strike on Monday against a new wave of austerity measures, decided to turn pre-planned demonstrations into a march against Fyssas’s murder.

As Fyssas was laid to rest in Athens last Thursday, protests took place in over 26 cities across Greece against the escalating violence inflicted by Golden Dawn’s party members and supporters.

In the last three years, at least 300 right-wing attacks have been documented in the crisis-struck country, with immigrants bearing the brunt of the violence.

Buoyed by record unemployment, poverty and increasing crime in urban centres, Golden Dawn’s anti-establishment rhetoric has attracted Greeks who blame the political status quo for the crisis.

The once-marginal neo-Nazi party gained parliamentary representation in the June 2012 elections for the first time and now ranks third in the polls after the conservative ruling party New Democracy and the left-wing SYRIZA.

However, according to recent polls, public support for the far-right party dropped to 7 percent from 8.5 percent after Fyssas’s murder last week.

Yorgos Roupakias, the man who has confessed to the attack, is being held on remand.

Although Golden Dawn still denies that he was a party member, there is overwhelming evidence of his close links to leading party figures, according to police reports.

The murder of Fyssas took place only a few days after an attack by Golden Dawn sympathisers against members of the Greek Communist Party left eight people wounded.

 

Anti-extremism measures

Prime Minister Antonis Samaras called for calm during what he said was an "extremely critical time" for Greece.

"This government is determined to not allow descendents of Nazis to poison society, to commit crimes, to terrorise and to undermine the foundations of a country that gave birth to democracy," Samaras said in a televised address to the nation last Thursday.

Meanwhile, Public Order Minister Nikos Dendias has proposed a law that could block state funding for the far-right Golden Dawn party if police find organisational links to the fatal stabbing.

Both the government and opposition parties have expressed their determination to push through measures to combat far-right extremism in Greece.

On Monday afternoon, Dendias also demanded the resignation of two senior police officers, who were amongst the most popular candidates to succeed the current Greek police chief, and suspended eight others amidst allegations of the police connections to neo-Nazis.

However, the SYRIZA party says it is not convinced by the government’s declarations, as it has repeatedly argued that Golden Dawn has thrived under the tolerance of the government, the police and the judicial system.

Speaking at an election rally in Berlin last Thursday, SYRIZA party leader Alexis Tsipras, said: "Social stability and cohesion are in danger in Greece."

He also warned that "European culture is being faced with the nightmare of neo-Nazism which is born by barbaric policies”.

In reference to these policies regarding public sector layoffs and planned transfers, Ermes Kasses, the newly installed head of ADEDY insisted that the protests will go on until the government backs down.

"Had these fiscal policies worked, had they resolved some of the country’s problems, we might be more understanding," he said. "Instead the situation has gone from bad to worse and now the Troika want our blood. Well, they are not going to get it because we are going to put up the mother of all battles.”

With joblessness nudging 28 per cent, Greece’s largest labour union, GSEE, this month predicted it would take at least 20 years before employment returned to pre-crisis levels.