Far-right parties won almost 13% of the national vote in Greece’s national elections over the weekend, in what experts warn could be the most significant in a recent string of victories for similar groups across Europe.
While the ruling center-right New Democracy Party won a landslide victory, with 40.5% of the vote, its triumph was overshadowed by the success of the Spartans, a recently formed far-right nativist group that won 12 seats. in the 300-seat Greek Parliament. .
Widely viewed as direct descendants of the outlawed neo-Nazi Golden Dawn group, which was declared a criminal organization in 2020, the Spartans were enthusiastically endorsed by Ilias Kasidiaris, a former Golden Dawn lawmaker.
Kasidiaris tweeted his support and congratulations from prison, where he is serving a 13-year sentence for his role in the Golden Dawn crime, which included acts of violence against migrants and political rivals.
Marta Lorimer, an expert on far-right politics in Europe at the London School of Economics, said the success of the radical right in Greece and elsewhere has had a profound political effect: it has turned traditionally moderate center-right parties more extreme.
“The main challenge is that you have a center right that is copying the messages of the extreme right. The prime minister can now say that the election results show that the people want more far-right policies,” he said.
“It is true that these parties are doing better than before, but for me it is more the case that people in the middle can see this. [far-right extremism] as useful. That’s more worrying to me.»
On the question of a European wave of far-right tendencies, Georgios Samaras, an expert on Greek politics and political economy at Kings College London, noted that some of Greece’s radical parties would be banned in Germany, where the use of extremist symbols, including the swastika, is prohibited. And very few movements, of any persuasion, would survive having their largest party declared a criminal enterprise, he said.
“This is why Greece stands out: neo-Nazis are resurfacing in politics after the conviction of the leaders [for being part of a] right-wing criminal organization,” Samaras said.
“And yes, there is a shift to the right in Europe, but Greece is somewhat more extreme than Finland, for example, or Spain, or Germany with the AfD. We are seeing something new emerge in European politics,” she added.
Greece may be more extreme, but it is not the only one teetering to the right.
The Brothers of Italy, which traces its roots to supporters of dictator Benito Mussolini, last year became the first far-right party to win an election in Italy since World War One.
Earlier this month, the anti-immigration Finns Party entered a quadripartite coalition to govern in Finland, and in September 2022, neighboring Sweden saw the far-right populist Sweden Democrats win more than 20% of the vote to become the second largest party in the country.
The far-right Vox party in Spain is expected to perform well in next month’s national elections, hovering around 14% in opinion polls. In 2019, the party obtained 15% of the votes and 52 deputies.
The far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) can count on the support of around 20% of the German public, according to opinion polls; on sunday he won a important regional elections in the eastern state of Thuringia.
Last year, Marine Le Pen, the then leader of the National Assembly, came closer than ever to becoming France’s first far-right female president.
But in Greece, the 241,000 people who voted for the Spartans «are actually committed neo-Nazi supporters,» according to Samaras, the Kings College expert.
“People know what Golden Dawn is,” he said. «Golden Dawn was convicted as a criminal organization, orchestrated the murder of several people, and has been involved in various anti-immigration activities in the last 10 years.»
At the height of its popularity in 2015, Golden Dawn garnered 380,000 votes, 7% of the total.
In Sunday’s elections, two other radical right-wing parties, the Greek Solution and the Democratic Patriotic Movement, known by the Greek acronym NIKI, won 4.4% and 3.7% of the vote, respectively. In all, far-right groups got 664,000 votes in a country that covers a large area but has a population of just 10 million.
This weekend’s election came days after one of the worst maritime disasters in modern Greek history killed more than 300 people, mostly migrants from Africa and the Middle East. Greek authorities have been criticized for failing to act to rescue migrants amid a heated national debate over state responsibilities towards asylum seekers.