OPINION

Hold the judgment

Nikos Michaloliakos, the candidate for Athens mayor representing the extreme-right group Chrysi Avgi, garnered 5.3 percent of the vote. His share of the vote in districts of downtown Athens with large numbers of immigrants even exceeded 20 percent. The numbers point to the lack of any effective immigration policy. For a decade now I have been predicting that vehement anti-racism rhetoric breeds nothing more than political support for the extreme right. The residents of Aghios Panteleimonas, a hotbed of tension between migrants and far-right groups, were not suffering from any virus when they voted the way they did last Sunday. The reason was explained quite succinctly by an elderly resident of the central Athenian neighborhood when she said that for years residents have been making dramatic pleas to the City of Athens, the government and political parties for a solution to the Aghios Panteleimonas problem and have met with no response. When outsiders began to dismiss the locals’ desperate protests as a sign of xenophobia and racism, groups like Chrysi Avgi were able to swoop in and fill the void with their own abhorrent brand of politics. Recent attacks against left-wing mayoral candidates Alekos Alavanos and Eleni Portaliou are indicative, and both victims have pointed the finger at Chrysi Avgi. On the political level, however, who threw the yogurt and the egg is not as important as the reaction of the chorus of people who witnessed it. What should be worrying the political elite is the fact that the residents/witnesses were more inclined to applaud the attacker than lambast him. A survey of what the people living in these areas feel and think would certainly be interesting. Athens is being transformed into a divided city. Crime in the historic center has skyrocketed and a growing population of illegal migrants is pushing other residents out. It is politically immoral for well-to-do leftists and middle-class liberals to shake a finger, from a safe distance, at local communities and preach about tolerance when they are not living the same nightmarish situation. It is unseemly and a cop-out to preach humanity when you don’t rub shoulders with illegal immigrants, do not live in the same neighborhoods or send your kids to the same schools. The only connection between these two groups is that the former usually hire the latter as domestic help.