Having written a long piece on the election of Syriza yesterday I saw this morning that they have gone into coalition with what has been described as an anti-migrant right (or even far right) party called the Independent Greeks ( or ANEL). ANEL have a strong anti-ECB stance but on the level of seeing Greeks as a victim of an 'International Conspiracy'. Tie that into their leader claiming falsely that Jews pay no Taxes and it should sound warning bells. They do have 15 elected members so it gives the coalition a strong majority and Syriza have worked with them in the past. Presumably this and their strong anti ECB stance is why Syriza has decided that their anti-migration policies are not important. [Translation into Greece]
Below are some quick notes and sources, I'm resisting commenting yet beyond the rather obvious point that this choice of coaition partners makes nonsence of Syrizas talk of solidarity with those outside Greece. Defenders of this decision say that this was Syriza's best option (but note not only) as the others are too sectarian (KKE) or not anti Europe enough ( Potami ). For me this is just a particularly brutal example of the inevitable costs of electoralism but there is an irony in some Syriza supporters proclaiming that 'There Is No Alternative' the day after proclaiming the election results had banished Thatchers TINA for good.
The one thing I have to say is that the migration question is not some matter of local politics to be swept aside. Because of its location Greece is one of the main arrival points for migrants into Europe. They are already subject to brutal racism, both from the state but also from far right organisations, in particular Golden Dawn. Many have died at the hands of cops or of fascists while many, many more have died trying to enter the country. There interests should not be swept aside in the name of Greek or even European solidarity - in fact stating it in those terms I think highlights the scale of the problem here.
Of course migrants have no votes and are extremely marginalised already so the cost of sacrificing them for Greek interests will not be electorally significant at all. To the electoralist pragmatist its probably hard to understand why anyone would see a problem here at all.
First off on the news it turns out I shouldn't be surprized as this coalition was telegraphed before the election, example below
"The Independent Greeks differ from Syriza on many traditionally conservative issues, pledging to crack down on illegal immigration and defend the close links between the Orthodox Church and the state. But in other ways the party could be as comfortable a fit as To Potami, the untested new centrist party often seen as Syriza’s most likely ally.
Its anti-bailout line is much tougher than the pro-Europe rhetoric of To Potami. It wants to wipe out a large part of the debt, which is equivalent to 175 percent of economic output, and cut high levels of taxation, with tax incentives to attract investment, create jobs and provide funding to small companies. Kammenos’ ambitions are wider than merely getting into parliament. “
The dilemma is what do the people want, a government with the arrogance of an absolute majority or a national unity government with Independent Greeks being the guarantors of tomorrow?” he said in his speech.
A campaign advertisement showing Kammenos helping a small boy called Alexis to avoid derailing his model train illustrates the role he wants to play in a Syriza-led government." ( Source )
Some details on what their anti migrant policies actually are
"A new political party, Independent Greeks, was created in early 2012 - again as a splinter group from the conservatives resulting from its leader's disagreement with ND's support for the EU-IMF rescue package for Greece. It entered the electoral contest with a strong anti-immigration agenda.
The party programme introduced the notion of a 2.5% quota for non-Greek population residing in the country. It advocated for maximum-security detention facilities in distant and isolated places, the mass expulsion of illegal immigrants, and a hierarchy of 'preferred' immigration by country of origin, heavily biased towards western and Latin American countries."
"While Independent Greeks capitalized on its highly emotional discourse on national sovereignty and its hard line on immigration, SYRIZA advocated for the legalisation (in various forms ranging from) of the majority of immigrants who entered Greece before the end of 2010 – and proposed various measures to do so, ranging from granting temporary to long-term residency permits, to full-fledged naturalisation" ( source )
ANEL voted against the 'Law for opposing certain types and manifestations of racism and xenophobia' this year but so did the KKE. Quote is from long article on racism that gives an idea of where their support comes from and suggestz that in electoral terms the racism may be secondary see https://www.contributoria.com/.../543690d2580ab68323000037
"As the fourth most popular party in the 2009 elections, LAOS participated in the coalition government of Lucas Papademos with PASOK and New Democracy in late 2011. But the move came at the expense of the party’s anti-austerity credentials, and in the two elections of 2012, LAOS failed to get reelected, having lost much of its top brass to New Democracy.
The void it left was partly filled by the Independent Greeks (ANEL), which, for all their textbook anti-immigrant sentiment and nationalism, were aware that their stronger card was a very populist, anti-austerity agenda. Also vying for LAOS’ electoral capital was the more monolithic, cult-like and activist Golden Dawn."
The comments on this piece belwo are useful as its a couple of far right supporters including Golden Dawn types outlining what they like and dislike about ANEL http://greece.greekreporter.com/.../independent-greeks.../
A report on a ANEL rally from 2012
"Now, let's meet the leader of Independent Greeks Panos Kamenos," he shouted into the microphone and his voice was immediately covered by the cheers of several hundred supporters of the party. "Christ is risen," said the leader and the people underneath responded in one voice with the familiar "Truly He is risen." Then, he delivered the slogan, "We are many. We are independent. We are Greeks." and repeated it many times thereafter. It was amazing how many times he used the word "Greeks" in his speech. ( Source )
Panos Kammenos, the ANEl leader leader is often said to have claimed that "Jews don't pay taxes" during an interview on the Antenna television channel. ( http://forward.com/…/greek-jews-slam-right-wing-politician…/ )
The full quote is a bit less dodgy as he was talking about religious bodies rather than individuals (but was also wrong). "We see that Orthodoxy, which Mr Samaras cites in his article, his government took most of the decisions that are against the Church of Greece; cremation, civil partnerships for homosexuals, taxation just for the Orthodox religion. Buddhists, Jews, Muslims are not taxed, the Orthodox Church is taxed and in fact is at risk of losing its monastery assets” ( http://www.hellasforce.com/…/uproar-greek-party-leader-say…/
Have you more information or can you explain what is happening here? We are getting hit hard by spammers at the moment but I'll try and leave commenting open as long as possible.
WORDS: Andrew Flood (Follow Andrew on Twitter )