Last fall, in mid-September, a series of unprecedented fires raged across a large part of Peloponnese (including the area surrounding ancient Olympia), killing 68 people.  Then, on September 16, something else happened that caused widespread panic—at least among liberals: For the first time in 30 years, a national conservative party (the People’s Orthodox Rally) won seats in the Hellenic Parliament.  The liberals responded the way liberals typically do—by engaging in name-calling.

For years, the political establishment in Greece, mirroring their colleagues in other European countries, have been out of touch with the real problems faced by the people.  Thanks to an “open borders” trade policy, industrial and manufacturing companies have been transferring their operations to Eastern European countries, the manufacturing sector has disintegrated, and 21 percent of the Greek population lives below the poverty level (355 euros per month).  At the same time, Greece faces an unprecedented influx of illegal immigrants.  The government’s best estimate is that they number between 750,000 and 2.5 million, which amounts to one quarter of the population.  When it comes to foreign policy, the two largest parties—the social-democratic PASOK and the liberal New Democracy—hold positions that could best be described as “national suicide”: Both support the accession of Turkey to the European Union, the European Constitution, and the surrender to Brussels of any remnant of national sovereignty.

The only real challenge has come from the People’s Orthodox Rally (LAOS).  Georgios Karatzaferis, who formerly belonged to the conservative wing of New Democracy, founded LAOS in 2000; since then, it has continually grown.  In the 2004 national elections, the party polled 2.2 percent, failing to capture the 3 percent necessary to enter parliament, but a few months later, it garnered 4.12 percent in the European elections, and Karatzaferis became a member of the European Parliament.  In the 2007 national elections, it gained 3.8 percent of the vote and elected ten MPs, myself included.

To outside observers, 3.8 percent may seem small, but one must factor in the dirty tricks played by the liberal political establishment.  LAOS party groups, members, and voters are subjected to a torrent of daily attacks, without any protection by the state.  Adonis Georgiades, a newly elected LAOS MP, is a publisher specializing in the works of ancient Greek writers who operates a book shop in the center of Athens.  His store has been set on fire nine times over the last two years, and the police have made not one arrest.  In September 2007, unidentified men entered the annual Book Exhibition, a couple of hundred meters from the Acropolis, that ancient symbol of Athenian democracy, and proceeded to destroy the displays of conservative publishing houses.  Again, the police arrested no one.  Others have systematically attacked the LAOS party offices all over Greece, hurling Molotov cocktails and stones.  No arrests.  Despite this high level of harassment, which would be considered outrageous for any well-governed and democratic state, LAOS supporters have never retaliated with violence.  Of course, the liberal politicians, journalists, and analysts have ignored this irenic response, as it conflicts with their insistence that LAOS is a dangerous “far-right party.”  Politics has jettisoned reason in contemporary Greece.

Nonetheless, the persistence of LAOS supporters is finally paying off.  After the party entered the Hellenic Parliament, the new Karamanlis government was forced to abandon the introduction of new history textbooks that were hostile toward the Hellenic people and promoted an anti-Greek worldview.  (For example, the Smyrna massacre of 100,000 Greeks in 1922 was termed the “Squeeze at the Harbor,” while the 400-year Ottoman occupation of Greece and the rest of the Balkans fell under the heading “Ottoman Administration.”)  The new government has pledged that it will follow a more decisive policy toward the expansionist ambitions of Skopje, by prohibiting its entrance to NATO and the European Union, unless a mutually acceptable solution for the country’s name can be reached.  (Wary that the name implies a desire to expand into Greek Macedonia, Athens does not recognize the “Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.”)

Formerly, the conservative agenda was filtered and distorted by the liberal media.  Now, it can be heard plainly on the floor of Parliament.  It should come as no surprise, then, that the first polls conducted after the elections showed an increase of support for LAOS.  The game is not over in Greece.