By Thanasis Gavos – London
The fast moving developments over Golden Dawn in Greece have stirred a domestic debate in Cyprus regarding the nature and the actions of the far-right party of the National Popular Front (NPF or ELAM in its Greek acronym).
The debate heated up after the AKEL leader presented the Justice and Public Order Minister with material showing military style exercises taking place in Troodos with ELAM’s involvement, in scenes resembling Golden Dawn’s structure of violence.
The ELAM leaders have not made a secret out of the close links with its Greek sibling party. “We are the Golden Dawn of Cyprus,” a spokesman declared last week, while reports have attributed attacks against immigrants to the Cypriot xenophobic organisation.
As Dr Christos Kassimeris, Associate Professor in Political Science at the European University of Cyprus, notes, “founded in 2008, and having contested only one national election, the NPF echoes authoritarianism, anti-communism, anti-Turkism, and all things anti-immigration”.
In a written analysis for IBNA, Dr Kassimeris comments: “For more than thirty years, politics in Cyprus featured no party of the extreme right. Today, the NPF is Cyprus’ new voice of fascism, its growth obviously favoured by the recent legitimacy crisis of the political system and the newly emerged economic crisis. More precisely, the entry of Cyprus into the European Union, the election of a President from the ranks of left-wing AKEL, the Church’s xenophobic stance, and the continuous efforts for rapprochement with the Turkish-Cypriot leadership are all key factors that help explain the reappearance of the extreme right in Cyprus; however, polling barely over 1 per cent in the 2011 national elections will hardly ever constitute a story of political success–it is an electoral achievement nonetheless.”
According to the Cypriot political scientist, ELAM is rightly causing concern among some in Cyprus: “Successful or not, the sheer presence of an extreme right-wing party in a divided country that has long been tarnished by ill-conceived political agendas is definitely cause for alarm. Political conditions in what was a long-standing polarized Cyprus between left and right are nowadays all the more blurry, particularly, since AKEL held executive power for the first time in 2008. A seemingly disoriented electorate surely is fertile ground for the rise of an extreme right-wing party, as in Greece, given that nationalism is the unifying theme that caters to the concerns of the vast majority of Greek-Cypriot voters.”
Yet translating the party’s growing appetite for nationalism into a sizable voting force seems like an implausible scenario at present. “Dominated by no more than a few highly influential, and therefore popular, political parties, the electoral landscape of Cyprus makes no promises for success to newly emerged parties, especially when their main characteristic is extremism. That the National Popular Front has increased its popularity to 2 per cent, according to a July 2013 opinion poll, is only significant for statistical purposes, even though such a percentage would allow the party entry to the House of Representatives,” adds Dr Kassimeris.
“The manifesto of the National Popular Front maintains an ideology that is almost novel to politics in Cyprus, but whether current phenomena denoting fascism and xenophobia will continue to appeal to the Greek-Cypriot voters remains to be seen. If anything, developments concerning the activities of key Golden Dawn members of the Greek parliament will certainly test the waters in Cyprus too,” concludes the European University Cyprus Assistant Professor in Political Science.