Next April, Athens will re-elect its mayor and the candidates have now been declared. Since 2010, the office has been held by George Kaminis, a surprising victor in that election, drafted in by a coalition of liberal forces to run against the unpopular right wing incumbent. Next year, Athens again goes to the polls, four years deeper into the crisis.
Its been a turbulent few years in office. Athens, the centre of the neo-liberal resistance in Greece is regularly disrupted by strikes and protests. In October last year, Kaminis announced that he would run again for Mayor, two months later however, he went into hiding when Dendias, the minister for public order, ordered the evacuation of the popular squat Villa Amalias, to avoid ratifying the decision to raid the municipal building which had lain empty before the reclamation, but eventually bowed to the pressure coming from central government. It is not just the left from which he has drawn ire either, earlier this year, he was attacked by one of the neo-nazi Golden Dawn MPs who attempted to pull a gun on him in his office, when he banned them from distributing free food to Greeks only in Syntagma.
Despite the announcement by the Democratic Left, a former member of the government coalition who withdrew its support in the wake of the unconstitutional shutdown of the public broadcaster ERT, that they would support Kaminis’s candidacy, the slogan heard at the protests against the squat clampdown that “Villa Amalias will be the graveyard of Kaminis” and the consequent loss of confidence in his leadership over capitulating to this blatant act of vandalism against a popular and well utilised social centre and base of anti-fascist resistance may well prove the truth of that slogan – making it difficult for Kaminis to pull together the level of support that he enjoyed in 2010. The question then becomes who might replace him.
The elections are still over six months away. Already Athens is suffering heavily from the effects of the crisis. The current unemployment rate is approaching 30%, with an eyewatering 60% of youths aged 16-24 unemployed. An estimated 20,000 people are homeless, many sleeping on the streets and in parks, many more bunking up with friends and family until they get back on their feet, many schools wont open next week as the effects of 15,000 teachers being laid off are felt and hospitals already buckling under the strain are next in the firing line.
The Golden Dawn are capitalising on this by constructing refugees as the scapegoats of the crisis – pledging Greek only bloodbanks, the withdrawal of nursery education from migrant children and leaving migrant families afraid of what might happen to their children at school as the Golden Dawn uses them as a recruitment ground. At the end of last month, the Golden Dawn announced their candidate, Ilias Kasidiaris. Kasidiaris is a well kent figure in Athens and indeed in Greece. Found innocent (yeah right!) in March of driving a getaway vehicle in an armed assault on a University professor in 2007, his main claim to fame is his assault on the communist MP, Liana Kanelli, punching her three times in the face on live television, and his subsequent attempt to prosecute her for defamation of character. Sporting a tattoo of a swastika, he has used the Hellenic parliament as a platform for racist neo-nazi filth – quoting from the Protocols of the Elders of Zion in one speech and in another denying that the holocaust ever happened.
A poll reported on Extra TV in June asserted that Kasidiaris (who at that time had not declared his candidacy) would have taken 18.9% of the vote, only 0.5% behind the assumed New Democracy candidate – the repressive and authoritarian Dendias, who currently serves as the minister for public order, and ahead – although not by much (0.1%) - of the Syriza candidate. The beligured Kamiris on the other hand polled only three percent. I would seem, and I sincerely hope, that this is a rogue poll, but the profile of Kasidiaris, coupled with the low showing of the left and the polarisation which has and is taking place within Greek politics means that the suggestion that he might be in the running as a serious candidate with at least a slim chance of actually taking office is not completely outlandish.
But, it transpires, he is a controversial choice for other reasons. The white supremacist site, Stormfront has been hosting a raging debate over whether he is actually pure enough bred (link is safe btw), questioning his claim to be a white European. Instead suggesting that his features might be African – Negroid or Berber; or perhaps Arab – Lebanese, Syrian or Egyptian, or maybe even South American, giving him a “funny Hugo Chavez look”.
When a open neo-nazi, who has amply demonstrated his credentials as a violent opponent to intellectuals, the left wing and women, who openly spouts anti-semitic rhetoric and proudly displays the swastika tattooed on his arm has the potential to take the leadership of Athens, Greece is seriously fucked. The fact that he might not be pure enough bred for the self-appointed guardians of the boundaries of the Aryan master race to consider him one of their own only highlights the fuckedupness of the entire ideology that he represents.