After the great electoral success of the extreme and neo-Nazi Golden Dawn in the elections on 6 May, journalists and citizens have been repeatedly asking themselves, “Is the presentation of its leader and members in newspapers with high circulation and most watched TV shows exposing them or is it in their favour?”
Many believe that Nikos Michaloliakos’ interviews or the military command "Stand to attention!" completely wrong in terms of grammar, will scare voters and they will not repeat their mistake of 6 May. Others, however, say, "For small and marginal parties, bad publicity is better than no fame."
In his book "The media and the extreme right: playing the nationalism card" assistant professor in sociology and political science at the University of Nicosia, Antonis Elinas, analyzes the rise of the extreme right in Austria, Germany, France and Greece.
In today's Greek reality, where the rhetoric on immigration has captured many members of the parties reigning in the political sphere, the author’s study has busted another myth: This strategy does not take votes from the extreme right – it even legitimizes its main thesis. This is a shortsighted strategy that could become a boomerang. When a party such as New Democracy expresses extreme views, it is under pressure from moderate supporters. If it wins the elections and forms a cabinet, it will be under pressure from the international community. At some point, major parties are simply forced to give ground and that ground is occupied by the extreme right.
It is interesting that in the book, the first extreme right formation in Greece is consideredto be the party Political Spring, which Antonis Samaras established in 1993 after his withdrawal from New Democracy. Like all extreme parties, the non-existent formation of today's leader of the "blue" used a matter of national importance to strengthen its positions on the political scene. And that was the name issue of Macedonia.
"New Democracy took the nationalistic way in connection with Macedonia before being forced by international pressure to abandon this strategy. The move, which was taken for a withdrawal, opened opportunities for the rise of Political Spring," which "supported by substantial publicity in the media, managed to succeed in the 1993 elections," Antonis Elinas wrote. The party went down in history due to the crisis with Turkey connected with the rocky islands Imia, which allowed New Democracy "to restore its gain on "national" issues."
George Karatzaferis found his chance to create the LAOS party in the suggestion for not stating the religion on the identity cards of Greeks, which caused violent responses. His party gained wide publicity in all major media, "embraced" the extreme right formations of Makis Voridis and Konstantinos Plevris and was successful in the local elections in 2002.
The author of the book accused PASOK too for the rise of LAOS: "Socialists contributed to the increased presence of LAOS in the media" because they thought that the party was taking votes from New Democracy. The entry of LAOS into parliament in 2007 was helped by another national issue, which "exploded" at that time. It was a history textbook for the sixth grade, in which the author Mary Repousi wrote that the Greeks had flocked to the port of Smyrna in 1922 thus winning the hatred of all "patriotic" minded Greeks.
Debates about the textbook made George Karatzaferis a permanent guest in television studios. "The attention that was paid to the LAOS party was so great that there were doubts it had the support of PASOK controlled media," the author of the book wrote. According to his research during the last month before the elections, George Karatzaferis received 9% of television and radio appearances of political leaders and the last week, they reached 11%. In such a boost, far greater than that of the leaders of the radical left SYRIZA and the Communist Party, it is no surprise that the party managed to nominate 10 deputies.
From the cases of other countries stated in the book, indicative is Germany, where the extreme right was unable to enter the Bundestag. "The media paid particular attention to the extreme right "Die Republikaner" in 1989 after its success in the elections in Berlin. Although its publicity was not positive and its leader was called "the new Führer," it was enough to impress 7% of voters, who voted for it in the European Parliament elections. Since then, German media have decided to avoid giving the floor to the extreme right."
The hottest issue today is whether the rise of the extreme right in Greece is temporary or not. The author of the book answered "yes" and explained that the deepening crisis and its duration foster political extremism. He questioned the concern that its rise threatens democracy and stirs up the wrong feeling that national identity is the binding force in a society as it brings a sense of belonging among its members. "On the contrary, the politicization of identity threatens social cohesion as it defines foreigners as a nest of evils," he wrote.
In any case, Golden Dawn rates in recent polls vary between 3.6% and 5.1%. It appears that on 17 June the party will not reach the success of May 6 with 6.9% of the vote.