Nearly three years since entering parliament after rousing rallies and food handouts, Greece’s far-right Golden Dawn is running a much quieter campaign for Sunday’s election from a high-security prison. With most of its top brass jailed pending trial on charges of being in a criminal gang, Greeks have seen little of one of Europe’s most ardent anti-immigrant parties in recent weeks except for the occasional broadcast and odd leaflet. Golden Dawn, whose leaders deny neo-Nazi sympathies, taps into the same anger at politicians seen as responsible for austerity, wage cuts and record unemployment that is expected to propel the radical leftist Syriza to power. The party’s resilience on Greece’s turbulent political scene, it ranks as high as third in some polls, raises the prospect of an imprisoned far-right leader being asked to form a government if Syriza and the ruling conservatives both fail to win outright or form a coalition.
“The television stations might present (our candidates) as knife-wielders, criminals, uneducated, immature but as you can see… they represent the best that Greek society has,” boomed the voice of prominent Golden Dawn lawmaker Ilias Kasidiaris from a loudspeaker at a recent gathering in the town of Koropi, south east of Athens.
He was speaking from Korydallos prison, home to some of Greece’s most dangerous criminals, where he is awaiting trial on charges of illegal gun possession.