Thursday, March 14, 2013
Can the Greek Center Hold?
Wall Street Journal
March 14, 2013
Ask most Greeks about Golden Dawn, the extreme-nationalist party that is now the country's third-most popular, and they recite from the catalog of horrors that has accompanied the party's rise: Foreigners and immigrants run through with swords on the street and stabbed at subway stations. Openly bigoted provocations in Parliament, in the courts, and on radio and television. A whole sector of central Athens turned into a hothouse of fear.
On a recent visit to Exarcheia, the graffiti-blanketed anarchist stomping ground, I was warned that roving racist thugs might mistake me for an Afghan. Friends urged me to leave before sundown.
Greeks are fearful, and slightly ashamed. This, they say, is not the country they know.
For financial markets, Greece today plays a diminished role in the European economic story, if indeed it figures in that story at all. The country's misery, deep as it is, no longer seems to threaten the survival of the euro. Antonis Samaras, who became prime minister last June, has wildly outperformed expectations. His coalition government's program is sometimes described as a Reagan agenda for Greece: liberalizing economic reforms coupled with strong emphasis on law and order.