Far-right parties return to Greek elections as conservatives return to power

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — A little-known political party backed by a jailed former lawmaker won seats in Greece’s next parliament in an election on Sunday, signaling a far-right political comeback.

The Spartans party was backed by Ilias Kasidiaris, who is currently serving 13 years in prison for membership in a criminal organization as a former leading member of Golden Dawn – a political party of neo-Nazi origin linked to multiple violent street attacks.

Ahead of Sunday’s elections, parliament had introduced stricter rules on election eligibility designed to prevent Kasidiaris from standing as a candidate. A party he founded in prison was also disqualified and he shifted his support to the Spartans.

“We have defeated an arrogant enemy…this is a great triumph for Greece and our homeland,” Kasidiaris wrote in a tweet from a prison in central Greece.

The centre-right New Democracy party won a landslide victory in Sunday’s election, handing conservative leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis a second term as prime minister. It inflicted a crushing defeat on their main rival, the left-wing Syriza party, while three smaller parties were on the verge of gaining national representation.

They include the Spartans and the ultra-religious Niki party which has a base of support on the fringes of the Greek Orthodox Church and has gained ground over its opposition to the government’s COVID-19 vaccination programme. The nationalist Hellenic solution was sent back to parliament.

With 4.7% of the popular vote, the Spartans are expected to win 13 seats in the 300-member parliament. Vassilis Stigas, the party leader, publicly thanked Kasidiaris for his support in remarks on Sunday evening.

“We will represent Greek ideals and values ​​in the next parliament, values ​​that are currently absent,” said Stigas, a businessman and former aircraft mechanic.

Stella Ladi, a political scientist and associate professor at Queen Mary University of London, said support for the far right has taken root in many European countries.

“After Mitsotakis’ victory, this is the second most important result of today’s election and this is where we need to turn our attention over the next few years,” Ladi told the AP. .

“We need to understand why a traditionally left-leaning country gave 35 seats to the far right and what can be done to bring voters back to the center without compromising forward-thinking and liberal values.”

Support for Golden Dawn and the far right grew during the politically traumatic years of the financial crisis of the previous decade. The party was represented in parliament for seven years and four election cycles before falling below the 3% threshold required for parliamentary representation in the 2019 elections.

Kasidiaris and other members of the party leadership were jailed in 2020 after being found guilty of membership in a criminal organization over its link to multiple violent street attacks targeting migrants and left-wing political activists.

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