LAOS’s dark side

The silence of the self-styled guardians of democracy over the strong showing of the ultra-nationalist LAOS party in the European elections is curious but not inexplicable. Indeed, over the past three decades, many a critic has slammed New Democracy as being a breeding ground for extremist elements while, at the same time, secretly encouraging the formation of a viable ultra-rightist party that was hoped to trim votes from the conservatives. Remarkably, 60 percent of LAOS’s 250,000 votes on Sunday came from the Left, while only 40 percent came from the Right. The leftist background of LAOS supporters is not merely reflected in the exit polls of Sunday’s elections. It can also be deduced from the election results in the supposed strongholds of the Left. It is indicative that in the second Piraeus constituency, Giorgos Karadzaferis’s LAOS made one its strongest showings, raising its 1999 share by two percentage points. LAOS won 5.08 percent, beating Synaspismos Left Coalition, which slumped to 4.88 percent from 6.38 percent five years ago. Both main parties increased their share in that same constituency compared to 1999 – ND by 6.5 points and PASOK by 4. What have these purported custodians of democracy to say on the background and the makeup of LAOS voters? What was the real breeding ground of xenophobia? How are they planning to deal with neo-fascism? How can they admit in public that their theories on the causes of the nationalist upsurge were flawed? LAOS’s entry into the European assembly and, most crucially, the makeup of its party base mark the end of a decade-long exploitation of the extreme-right threat by the Left. The worst part of the story, of course, is that a populist, xenophobic party has managed to overcome dividing lines and sway voters across the ideological spectrum.