Perhaps one of the worst kept secrets in Greek political life came to light when Golden Dawn MP Ilias Kasadiaris released a video (transcript in English here) which revealed just how close the party was to Takis Baltakos, cabinet secretary to both the prime minister, Antonis Samaras and Deputy PM, Evangelos Venizelos. The tone and content of the conversation underlined what many had suspected that instead of being stalwart foes, the ruling New Democracy party and the avowed political outsiders Golden Dawn party were in fact working closely together.
This is doubly embarrassing for the prime minister as it not only undermines New Democracy's policy of presenting itself as a moderate bulwark against extremism on both the Left and the Right (the so-called Theory of the Two Extremes) but also shows just how little independence the Greek judiciary has in the country's political system. According to Samaras's right hand man, the prosecutions of senior Golden Dawn figures and the imprisonment of its MPs was based on the threat they posed to New Democracy's poll share and not because of their string of violent attacks on immigrants and political opponents.
Despite the fact that the neo-Nazi party had racked up an impressive record of violent racist assaults for years prior to 2013's clamp down the real trigger was, according to the secretly recorded video, their rise to 14% in the polls. Taking advantage of the murder of rapper, Pavlos Fyssas by Golden Dawn members in the port city of Piraeus, Greek police arrested top members of the party and charged them with being part of a criminal conspiracy.According to the transcript, this decision was not based on evidence linking local party supporters involved with the national leadership but rather political pressure brought to bear on judges involved..
Before that, however the Greek prime minister was quite happy to play a double game, on the one hand condemning Golden Dawn as a threat to democracy (especially when abroad) but on the other using their language and ideas to win back conservative voters with anti-immigrant policies taken straight from the pages of the Golden Dawn playbook. Also, when necessary using the threat of an alliance with the party to rein in Democratic Left, the junior party in Greece's (then) three-party coalition government when it threatened to vote against the government over the closure of the state broadcaster, ERT,.
Given Samaras's past as a ultra-nationalist in the in 1990's and the fact that he has surrounded himself with a coterie of far right politicians that this group has close ties with Golden Dawn should come as no real surprise. The ideological overlap between the clique that forms the heart of New Democracy's leadership and the Europe's most far right parliamentary party is much greater than either would like to admit (as least in public).
So, it seems the love that dare not speak its name has become a matter of public record as Greece's creaking coalition govt hangs on by a thread with a majority of one following the expulsion from PASOK of a senior MP who voted again the latest round of austerity laws imposed by Athens's creditors.
In May Greece goes to the polls to vote in European parliamentary, local and if one cabinet minister is to be believed national elections that promise to recast a political landscape that was formed in the 70's. The once powerful PASOK party is likely to be trounced, lucky to elect even one Euro MP whilst its last remaining stronghold in local government will be severely weakened by a drop of 90% in popularity since 2009.
For New Democracy the other traditional party of power the fall has been less crushing but still severe enough to possibly warrant a challenge to the leadership by a party base unwilling to follow PASOK's example and march themselves off into political oblivion.
Now the prime minister's problem is how to manage the decline and turn defeat at the hands of the main opposition party, SYRIZA into a minor victory. If the gap between the two in polls is a matter of a few points Samaras may be able to convince the party base that it was the necessary price to push through unpopular, but much needed policies. If, however, the gap is larger and conservative voters pick Golden Dawn in sufficiently large numbers then Samaras's position will be untenable, leading to a fierce scramble for the leadership within the party and the almost certain end of the unholy alliance between PASOK and New Democracy so putting an end to the coalition government that has governed Greece since 2012. That in turns means new round of national elections in which none of the old political paradigms will apply anymore.
Whilst this is bound to create uncertainty, not least within financial markets, it will signal the end of a era of graft, clientalism and pork barrel politics in which both PASOK and New Democracy officials from the top to the very bottom treated the State as their own private fiefdom and turned a blind eye to the actions of handful of extremely rich men who used their political connections to wield enormous, and often unseen influence over the economy and lives of millions of Greek citizens.