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Golden Dawn Surges in Greek Islands amid Migrant Crisis

Far-left Greek party Syriza had much to celebrate on Sunday, as Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras stormed to a more-comfortable-than-predicted reelection victory. Leftists were not the only ones celebrating, however, as neo-Nazi party Golden Dawn saw its best election results yet, coming in third place.

Reuters described the outcome of Friday’s election as likely Golden Dawn’s “best showing in a general election,” earning 7 percent of the vote and winning 18 seats in the legislature. Only Syriza and New Democracy–the nation’s center-right mainstream party–earned more votes than Golden Dawn. The party had received 6.3 percent of the vote in January, when Tsipras’ party first acquired the majority of the vote. Reuters notes that Golden Dawn once did elect 21 legislators in 2012, but the vote numbers were bigger this time around.

Most notably, Golden Dawn received significant voter boosts in the nation’s southern islands. The party nearly doubled its vote on the island of Lesvos, where it went from 4.7 percent of the vote in January to 7.8 percent on Sunday. On the Greek island of Samos, 7.7 percent of voters opted for Golden Dawn, up from 5.5 percent. On Kos, the island hardest hit by the European migrant crisis, Golden Dawn exceeded 10 percent of the vote. Kos and Lesvos in particular have seen thousands upon thousands of migrants–most traveling out of Turkey, having arrived there from Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan–land on their shores and settle there until they gather the resources to move, significantly hindering those islands’ tourism industries. These economic concerns, experts argue, make Golden Dawn’s nationalist, anti-migrant platform more appealing.

The party has also become especially popular among the nation’s unemployed, from whom they received 16.6 percent of the vote. Many of these former Syriza voters, the nation’s unemployed, are growing increasingly impatient with the debt crisis Syriza vowed to eliminate through bullying the European Union and IMF.

While Reuters is quick to emphasize that Golden Dawn did not make “major” gains in the polls, leftwing UK newspaper The Guardian sounds the alarm on 500,000 Greeks trusting Golden Dawn with their future, despite the party’s flirting with Nazi imagery and facing a number of criminal charges, including inciting violence and mob riots. A significant number of its former members of Parliament and party leadership remain in prison.

Golden Dawn is celebrating these elections as a victory, however. As The Guardian notes, party spokesman Ilias Kasidiaris noted in statements to the media that his party “is the only party seeing an increase in its percentage,” particularly notable given the rampant disillusion among Greek youth with far-left Syriza. “In October when Greeks begin to experience the consequences of the memorandum and illegal immigration you will see our support increase radically,” he warned. Kasidiaris is currently facing violent criminal charges, though that did not prevent him from receiving 16.12 percent of the vote for mayor of Athens in 2014.

Not all of Greece’s islands proved fertile ground for Golden Dawn, however. Ta Nea, a center-left newspaper in Greece traditionally associated with the Panhellenic Socialist Movement (Pasok), noted that in Anogeia, on the island of Crete, Golden Dawn received a grand total of zero votes.

Pasok, once the mainstream party of the left, has continued to flounder, coming in fourth place in Sunday’s election. This is an improvement from January, when they came in fifth place following experimental leftist party The River. Tsipras has denied there is a chance for Syriza and Pasok to work together, however, indicating that his party would form a majority government with Independent Greeks (ANEL), which The Economist describes as a “small nationalist party.”

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