The following is a lead editor article from the Athens News (as is the title).
No one can deny that the far right is on the rise in Greece and in Europe. The impressive tally of Marie Le Pen’s National Front in the first round of French elections speaks for itself. The financial recession and the influx of large numbers of immigrants in the European Union over the past years are undoubtedly empowering the far right.
And the fact that polls suggest the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party – whose extremist guiding principles have nothing to do with Le Pen – will garner somewhere between four and five percent of the vote in the Greek national elections on May 6 is indeed a cause for concern.
It will be a first for Greece. A party founded on racist principles and with a thinly veiled admiration for Adolf Hitler appears poised to make it to parliament. And the fact that it is expected to get around a dozen MPs in a parliament of 300 is not something to take lightly. Its rise is impressive, given it received 1.5 percent of the vote in a May 2011 opinion poll.
But it would be utterly misleading to assume that this relatively small percentage of the electorate consists of neo-Nazi sympathisers.
Instead, most of its supporters are simply frustrated by the monumental inability of successive governments to pursue an effective strategy to combat illegal immigration. Fringe parties are simply filling the gap left by the political mainstream.
The government’s failure to tackle the problem is more than evident on the streets of Athens, where entire innercity neighbourhoods have practically become ghettos of undocumented migrants. Local residents justifiably resent the idea of being forced to live in an apparently lawless environment while authorities stand idly by.
With elections approaching, the government has finally announced half-baked plans to summarily sweep undocumented migrants off the streets and house them in detention centres.
In other words, the government’s solution to the problem is the creation of something akin to modernday concentration camps. This will not address the root cause of the problem. And it has failed to convince anyone that these efforts are anything more than another pre-election publicity stunt, to the detriment of local residents and illegal immigrants alike.
The onus is on the next government and the European Union to make a serious attempt to confront the issue.
If not, segments of society could move further away from the mainstream and further into the arms of preying extremists.