Saramtou, 39, an ophthalmologist, said a sense that the two main parties had failed the country was driving her toward a party that has focused on illegal immigration and crime.
“They are very extreme,” she said at a Golden Dawn rally along the Aegean coastline of a well-trimmed Athens suburb this week. “But it’s inspiration. I don’t like all the foreigners in this country. They cause all this trouble,” including, she said, an incident where her elderly mother was robbed at home.
The two mainstream parties, which have traded power since the fall of Greece’s dictatorship nearly 40 years ago, pull in about 40 percent of support combined in recent polls, down from 77 percent in the last election, in 2009. Taking their place are parties on the left and right that oppose the bailout and Greece’s use of the shared euro currency.
The likeliest outcome of the election is an alliance between the two main pro-bailout parties, the Socialists and the business-friendly New Democrats, analysts say. But that is roughly akin to the Democrats and Republicans pulling a shared 40 percent of the vote and then expecting them to govern together in lock step to guide the country out of the Great Depression. Few Greeks have high expectations.
The tables turn
For Golden Dawn, the new support has been a bonanza after 21
2 decades in which it was almost completely shunned. In the last election, the party won 0.29 percent of the vote. Now polls put it between 5 and 7 percent, and mainstream politicians are competing to appear tough on immigration even as they condemn Golden Dawn as a neo-Nazi party and warn that bands of its supporters have been tied to attacks on immigrants.
The civil protection minister, Michalis Chrysohoidis, a Socialist, opened a detention camp for illegal immigrants in Athens this week that will eventually hold 1,000 people, and dozens more camps are planned. Antonis Samaras, the head of New Democracy, who probably will be the next prime minister, has promised to crack down on crime and said Thursday at a campaign rally that illegal immigrants were “tyrants of Greek society,” the Associated Press reported.
Voters in other European countries have also turned to the fringes in search of alternatives to the painful austerity-driven policies that have been the dominant response to Europe’s economic troubles. In France, Marine Le Pen, the head of the far-right National Front party, won 18 percent of the first-round presidential vote last month, and President Nicolas Sarkozy has tacked rightward in a bid to win her supporters ahead of the final round this weekend. In Amsterdam, right-wing leader Geert Wilders just precipitated the fall of the Dutch government.