Neo-Nazi Showing in Greek Elections Underscores Need for Legal and Human Rights Reform
Athens, Greece – Human Rights First today called on the Greek government to mount a new effort to restore rule of law and end impunity for hate violence in Greece, following a strong showing by a Neo-Nazi party in Sunday’s elections. The fascist, xenophobic and antisemitic Golden Dawn Party for the first time won three seats in the European Parliament in Brussels, with 9.39 percent of Sunday’s vote.
The European parliamentary elections have traditionally been an outlet for popular protest votes, and this contest has generally been viewed as a referendum on E.U. austerity and migration policies. The Golden Dawn Party ran on a stridently anti-EU platform and came in third, even though its top leaders are in jail and the party itself is under criminal investigation for a vicious two-year campaign of violence against migrants.
“Golden Dawn’s popularity, even after revelations about its Nazi ideology and its alleged involvement in two murders and dozens of assaults, underscores the need for a rigorous and credible prosecution that meets the highest European judicial standards and is not tainted by accusations of political motivation,” said Human Rights First’s Tad Stahnke, part of a team in Athens researching the human rights implications of the rise of far-right parties in Europe.
In 2009, Golden Dawn was a marginal party that won 0.5 percent of votes for the European Parliament. In 2012, following Greece’s economic crisis, it won 18 seats in the Greek Parliament and last week, its candidate for mayor of Athens won 16 percent of the vote in local elections. Sunday’s results show that the party’s appeal has grown as it has attempted to sanitize its neo-Nazi image, recruited two former Greek generals to run on its ticket, and claimed its jailed leaders were “political prisoners.”
Human Rights First is also concerned about death threats against the Chief Prosecutor of the Supreme Court and the two magistrates in charge of the Golden Dawn prosecution, and urges authorities to take all necessary security measures. U.S. and European security officials should also offer assistance.
Elsewhere in the European Union, far-right parties had a mixed showing. Marine Le Pen’s Front National won the French elections with 25 percent of the vote and far-right parties in Austria, Germany, and Greece scored big gains. This sets the stage for these groups to potentially form a powerful new block in the European Parliament.
However, support for ultra-right parties decreased in Italy, Slovakia, and the Netherlands, and Bulgaria’s virulently antisemitic Attaka party virtually collapsed. In Hungary the Jobbik Party stalled and Lithuania’s far-right party made no gains. Final results were not yet available in many countries.
“The ascent of extremist parties could corrode from within respect for the fundamental principles on which the European Union was founded,” Stahnke said. “The United States government should take special note of the increasing electoral strength of Golden Dawn and other extremist parties that gained ground in Sunday’s European elections. Many European far-right parties espouse policies that are a danger to human rights. They also support closer ties with Russia and voted against a European Parliament resolution condemning Russia’s ‘act of aggression in invading Crimea.’”
Human Rights First urges the Greek government to restore public trust in the rule of law through systemic legal reforms and training for law enforcement and judicial officials aimed at ending impunity for hate crime violence and police abuses. The organization also calls for a renewed emphasis on education about the history and ideology of the Nazi movement and its aftermath. The Greek government should invite international bodies with expertise in these areas to offer technical assistance.