Golden Dawn voters, women and Mitsotakis

Golden Dawn voters, women and Mitsotakis

Some foreign journalists have in recent days made two negative observations regarding New Democracy’s victory in the July 7 snap election and the makeup of the new cabinet.

One criticism is that New Democracy managed to win the election by also attracting votes from the neo-fascist Golden Dawn party, which – according to their thinking – essentially renders New Democracy a party that also encompasses the far right.

The other is that the 51-member cabinet includes only five women, a rate indicating that conservative leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis is not a champion of gender equality or that he does not want to include women in his party, which is looking like an ultraconservative, male-dominated political force.

The first argument simply does not hold water. The majority of far-right supporters who turned their backs on Golden Dawn migrated to Greek Solution (Elliniki Lysi). The total share received by Golden Dawn and Kyriakos Velopoulos’ nationalist pro-Russian party almost equals the share won by Golden Dawn in the 2015 election.

Moreover, Golden Dawn’s former voters were not all fascists or neo-Nazis. Many were driven by despair and felt that somehow Golden Dawn was the only party who would really attack and humiliate the “rotten old political system.” Some may even have voted for the left int he past.

And if there is somebody out there who can drag at least some of these voters away from the parties of the far right and into the mainstream, this should be seen as a positive development for democracy and the country at large. Hence, the above criticism lacks merit.

On the other hand, criticism about the shortage of women in Mitsotakis’ administration is legitimate. The news that the government of a modern European country in the year 2019 numbers only five women is a blot on New Democracy’s image. As Mitsotakis was the first to admit, there is room for improvement here. He should seek to ameliorate the situation by appointing women to high-level posts within the state apparatus and, when the time comes to carry out cabinet reshuffle, put more women in charge of ministry portfolios.

Sure, there are things that a well-meaning foreign or even Greek observer can criticize Mitsotakis about. But it would be unfair, in fact it would be tantamount to distorting reality, to claim that the new premier is some extreme nationalist who enjoys backing from far-right voters or that he is a man who does not believe in gender equality and women’s abilities.

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