It's unlikely that with the fall of one Neo-Nazi party, the deeply entrenched far-right sentiment will be completely expunged from the country.

After 454 court hearings lasting five years, a Greek court found the leadership of Greece's neo-Nazi party guilty of running a criminal organisation.

The news marks a watershed moment in a country that has struggled to deal with increasing far-right violence.

The criminal investigation into the Golden Dawn party, which in 2012 won 18 seats in the Greek parliament, began after an anti-fasicst musician was brutally murdered.

While the leadership of the group including Nikos Michaloliakos and six colleagues were convicted of heading what the court described as a criminal group, far-right sentiment in the country did not arise simply because of the party.

Mainstreaming far-right sentiment

The rise of the neo-nazi Golden Dawn party and the lesser internationally known right-wing Popular Orthodox Rally have over the last two decades capitalised on growing far-right sentiment in Greece.

Greece’s other mainstream parties, however, have not shied from adopting and mainstreaming the rhetoric used by the far right parties, garnering them with a degree of credibility amongst the electorate.

In a study carried out in 2015 looking at the two mainstream parties, a researcher found that far from distancing themselves from the far-right they encouraged it.

Mainstream parties in Greece, according to the researcher's paper, “did not ignore or divert attention away from the ‘immigration issue’. In contrast, they ‘adopted’ the far right agenda.”

As the 2008 financial crisis hit Greece, trust in politicians plummeted and as the country experienced an influx of migration, parties across the political spectrum sought to divert attention by using migrants as an electoral tool.

Apart from Syriza, one of the mainstream left parties in Greece, researchers found that most other mainstream parties “securitise migration”.

Golden Dawn and its supporters have over the years as a result have become emboldened leading to violent anti-immigrant riots.

Even as Golden’s electoral popularity has receded this has not been driven by decreasing favorability towards far-right ideas.

Lone Wolf attacks targeting immigrant communities have also become increasingly common resulting in Greece experiencing the most far-right violence in Europe.

There have also been credible reports that Greece’s police force have colluded with far-right members carrying out anti-migrant vigilante attacks.

The conviction of the Golden Dawn members is one of the very few times its leadership and supporters have been successfully persecuted.

Greek police and the political establishment have often shied away from tackling the party head on, even as it has been engaged in almost three decades of violence.

The fall of the Golden Dawn party had been happening for some time, the convictions however, are the tip of the iceberg, as the far-right sentiment in Greek society goes beyond one party and has permeated different institutions and political parties. Therefore, the unwinding of that sentiment is unlikely with the fall of one neo-Nazi party.

The ruling, while positive, will require a closer look at how Greece speaks about migrants more broadly or whether another party will take the mantle left behind by the Golden Dawn.

Source: TRT World