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.
Greece’s elections on Sunday are poised to give one of a handful of smaller parties a central role in the direction of the country—and possibly the entire eurozone. The opposition leftist Syriza party and the ruling conservatives, New Democracy, are battling for a first-place finish. But neither is likely to get a majority and will need to turn to another party to help govern, putting whoever comes in third in a position to become a kingmaker. The contenders range from the far-right Golden Dawn, shunned by Greece’s mainstream parties, to Pasok—part of the ruling coalition, but a shadow of the party that dominated Greek politics for most of the past four decades.
With Greece hurtling toward new elections and a possible exit from the euro zone, President Karolos Papoulias prepared to make a last-ditch appeal on Monday for the country’s sharply divided political parties to form a unity government even as his hopes for success all but evaporated over the weekend. The leaders of Greece’s main political parties remained adamant in their positions on the country’s debt agreement with foreign lenders, making a unity coalition appear impossible and new elections all but inevitable. Alexis Tsipras, the leader of the Coalition of the Radical Left, refused on Sunday to take part in any government that would go through with the harsh austerity measures required in the debt deal, saying that Greek voters had resoundingly rejected austerity in elections on May 6. The parties that favor preserving the debt deal lack enough seats in Parliament to govern on their own, and Mr. Papoulias spent Sunday trying to persuade several smaller parties to join them.
Greece opened its first purpose-built detention centre for illegal migrants on Sunday in Athens, a week before a national election where illegal immigration has emerged as a key issue. About 130,000 immigrants cross the country’s porous sea and land borders every year, the vast majority via Turkey, and the authorities are forced to release those who are arrested because of a lack of permanent housing. With Greece in its fifth year of recession and worries over rising crime levels, illegal immigration has become a major issue in the run up of the May 6 election. The once-obscure far-right Golden Dawn, which wants to deport all immigrants, is among the parties that has benefitted most from the mood among voters, and is expected to win its first seats in parliament.