Far-right surge casts shadows over Greece as conservatives win majority

June 27, 2023
2 mins read
Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis address support following poll win. Image: Twitter

Greek conservatives and far-right parties have achieved a historic absolute majority in the second round of Greek parliamentary elections which has shown the disintegration of the leftist opposition and the concurrent rise of far-right forces, bringing a somber tone to Greece’s parliament, marking its most rightward shift since the restoration of democracy in 1974.

Led by Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, the New Democracy party (EPP) has secured an impressive 158 seats in the 300-member parliament. The primary opposition remains with the leftist Syriza party (EU Left), holding 48 seats, followed by the socialists with 32 seats, the communists (KKE) with 20 seats, and a newly emerged small leftist party called Plefsi Eleftherias, which has eight seats.

The enthusiasm of jubilant supporters spilled onto the streets outside party headquarters in Athens, where they cheered, clapped, set off fireworks, and proudly waved the blue and white party flags. Nearly complete results indicate that Mitsotakis’ party garnered slightly over 40.5% of the total vote share, decisively defeating their main rival, the left-wing Syriza party. Syriza struggled to reach 18% of the votes, marking a 2-percentage-point decline compared to the previous elections held in May.

“Our goals are high and must be high in a second term that can transform Greece with dynamic growth rates that will raise wages and reduce inequalities,” Mitsotakis said in his first message from his party’s headquarters.

However, on the right side of the political spectrum, the entry of two far-right groups has transformed the parliamentary landscape, leading to what the news website News247 described as a “monster parliament.” One of these groups, “The Spartans,” secured 12 seats and is considered to be a continuation of the former neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party, which has been deemed a criminal organization.

The driving force behind this group is Elias Kasidiaris, a former prominent member of Golden Dawn who has been incarcerated but has managed to disseminate far-right propaganda online from jail over the years. While a Greek court ruling barred Golden Dawn and Elias Kasidiaris from participating in the elections, the second round saw the widespread distribution of posters across the country informing the electorate that Kasidiaris supported the newly established party called “The Spartans.”

In his first message after the elections, Vasilis Stiga, the leader of The Spartans, expressed gratitude to the convicted Kasidiaris, stating, “I would like to thank Elias Kasidiaris for his support. It was the fuel that gave us the impetus to achieve today’s result.”

Another party that garnered attention was “Niki,” which secured 10 seats. This party places emphasis on Christian Orthodox traditions, adopts a stringent stance against migrants, opposes abortion, and promotes Orthodoxy as a unifying element among Balkan peoples. There have been suggestions in Greek press reports that Niki receives financial support from para-religious organizations or even certain Russian businessmen. It’s worth noting that the official Orthodox Church has distanced itself from the party.

The third notable party, “Greek Solution,” obtained 12 seats and is considered an ultranationalist. It belongs to the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) group. While relatively more moderate compared to the previous two groups, Greek Solution exhibits pro-Russian leanings and employs strong anti-migration rhetoric.

The election took place shortly after a tragic incident where a migrant ship capsized and sank off the western coast of Greece, resulting in the loss of hundreds of lives. This catastrophic event raised questions about the actions of Greek authorities and the country’s strict migration policy.

The EPP has promised to extend a wall along the Greek-Turkish border and continue rigorous patrolling in the eastern Mediterranean to stop boats carrying migrants crossing into the European Union.

Human rights groups have expressed concern over multiple reports of summary deportations – also known as pushbacks – a claim that the government has denied but also refused to subject to the scrutiny of a fully independent inquiry.

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