One week from now, Greece will find itself at yet another unwelcome crossroads. It is difficult to overstate the importance of what could be the country’s most important moment since the fall of the military junta, in 1974. The choices are stark; the potential consequences dramatic. But the various economic alternatives provided by a panoply of parties from the radical left to the centre-right pale into insignificance when compared with the existential choice between democracy and thuggery, civilisation and barbarism presented by the neo-Nazis of Golden Dawn.
The gradual re-entry of violence into the political process has been one constant feature of the Hellenic Republic’s slow descent into hell over the past few years. Unfortunately, it took a televised incident to shock a nation that had so far been all too acquiescent to that violence into a very necessary debate. But truth be told, the smacking of veteran communist MP Liana Kanelli by the neo-Nazis' spokesman was nothing but the very public tip of an iceberg of terror and intimidation. In fact, party-affiliated thugs have been threatening and assaulting journalists, left-wing politicians and, especially, migrants for several years, often with impunity, in much the same manner as Hitler’s brownshirts in early thirties Germany.
The daughter of the party’s loud-mouthed Führer, Mikhaloliakos, was thus arrested alongside two MPs during an assault – vigilante man-hunt would perhaps be more appropriate – on migrants in the centre of Athens. A Jerusalem Post reporter witnessing a similar confrontation was, in turn, attacked by an angry masked mob. There are several instances of Greek journalists being intimidated by members of Golden Dawn. The problem is, of course, that these incidents were not broadcast on live television.
Mikhaloliakos himself is on the record as praising the leaders of the 1967 military coup, and denigrating the value of the democratic process by claiming that ‘elections have never saved Greece’, as clearly seen and heard in this video. Even more alarmingly, there are persistent rumours of collusion between elements of the police and members of the party (although hyperbolic claims that '50% of the security forces voted for the party' should be taken with a large grain of salt, considering the necessarily scant circumstantial evidence they are based on).
This combination of thuggery, fascist anti-constitutionalism and possible ties to elements within the security forces would pose a problem to any democratic polity; in a country with Greece’s history, it presents a potential time-bomb. The fractures of the 1946-49 civil war were only summarily taped over in the 1974 post-dictatorship constitutional arrangement known as the ‘metapolitefsi’. For someone – anyone – to be allowed to campaign on a platform that would tear them open once again is beyond comprehension.
Is it really this hard to ban a party that brazenly challenges the state’s monopoly of legitimate force, openly advocates the subversion of Greece’s constitution and unashamedly boasts a programme that violates many of the most fundamental points of the European Convention and UN Declaration on Human Rights?
There is indeed a cacophony of choices for Greece's voters come June 17th. But abolishing electoral democracy and civilisation itself should not be among them.