Three far-right parties are represented in the Greek parliament after the national elections of 25 June 2023. This institutional representation, combined with the sum of their electoral power, produces de facto political consequences. In this article, political scientists Lamprini Rori and Vasiliki Georgiadou map these three parties, analyse their positions and trace their spots within the context of this specific party family.
One of the most striking aspects of the parliamentary elections of 25 June 2023 is the range of the gap between the winning (Nea Dimokratia - New Democracy, 40.56%) and the second party (SYRIZA, 17.83%). One has to go all the way back to the first elections after the 1974 transition to democracy (the so-called ‘Metapolitefsi’) to find similar electoral dynamics between the first two parties. In the last parliamentary elections, all parties of the broadly defined (centre-) left aggregate an electoral percentage somewhat lower than that of the Nea Dimokratia (ND) alone, but significantly below its parliamentary strength in terms of electoral seats (SYRIZA, PASOK, KKE and Plefsi Eleftherias combined have 50 seats less than the seats of the ND). This is a fact that demonstrates an inherent imbalance, which can be traced back to the recent election result: a strong ND both in terms of election results and regarding its representation in the Parliament faces not only a weak major opposition – SYRIZA has less than one sixth of the seats needed to table a motion of no-confidence – but also a fragmented Left, with many individual components (communist, radical, social-democratic, anti-establishment) that are represented in the current parliament.
The Nea Dimokratia and its position on the Right
Although Nea Dimokratia achieved a very high electoral score (>40%) in both the May 21st and the June 25th elections, it is not standing alone in the broadly defined centre-right pole. First of all, on its left, the rising socialist party, PASOK puts some brake on its further movement towards the centre of the ideological-political axis: as the exit poll data shows, ND has a dominant penetration among voters with a centre-right positioning - 83.5% of them vote for ND, but has much less influence among voters with a centrist ideological self-identification (35.6%) (Joint exit poll, June 2023). Moreover, to its right, the presence of three far-right parties - Spartiates, Elliniki Lissi and Niki - now represented in the parliament does not make a centrist turn of the ruling party electorally unproblematic: any movement of the ruling party towards the centre of the ideological-political axis increases its distance from the far-right, leaving the far-right parties with higher electoral chances. As was reflected in the elections of 25 June, the penetration of ND on its right is weaker than that on its left; given that a small percentage of voters is concentrated on its right, - only 2.1 % of them position themselves on the far right - this does not make any losses on the part of ND significant. These losses, however, gain in importance, if one considers also the low influence of ND in the part of the electorate (13.4%) that refuses to place itself on the left-right axis. This is indeed a metric that favors the parties to the right of ND: 21.2% appear to vote for the ND compared to a clearly higher 30% that the three far-right parties aggregate among voters who consider that positioning on the ideological-political axis means actually nothing and is outdated (Joint exit poll, June 2023).
It is the first time since 1974 that three “genuine” parties of the far-right party family are represented in the national parliament. In the national elections of September 2015, apart from Chrisi Avgi (Golden Dawn) and Anexartiti Ellines (Independent Greeks), a borderline party in terms of its positions, the Enosi Kentroon (Centrist Union) also managed to secure parliamentary seats, some of which (stance against the political establishment and party elites, in favour of the cancellation of the Prespa Agreement and the immediate deportation of undocumented migrants) are identical to those of the far right parties. In the current composition of the Greek parliament that emerged from the elections of 25 June 2023, however, three parties of the Greek far right are represented, which are typical representatives of this party family, reflecting its two main components: the radical-populist right and the extremist right (Georgiadou, Rori, Roumanias 2018).
The Spartiates (Spartans) party (4.63%) was founded in 2017, identifying itself as a “national patriotic voice”. Before operating as a political party, Spartiates presented itself as a network for charity and social services provided to Greeks only, an activity that, according to the claims of its leader, continues to this day. They became known, however, after the elections of 21 May 2023, in which they did not even participate, and on the way to the elections of 25 June, when the incarcerated in jail (convicted at first instance for participation in a criminal organization) leading figure of Chrisi Avgi Ilias Kasidiaris, in a statement on 8/6/2023, expressed his support for this party, urging his followers to vote for it. This is a nationalist party, which, while recognizing the role of the Orthodox Church as the guardian of language and national tradition, makes it clear that it does not prioritize religion and faith in shaping its positions. On the contrary, it focuses on the protection of the Nation and Greek culture from migrants, against whom it expresses itself in a sharp manner: It refers to the Islamisation of the country, the separation of the Greek-souled or genuine Greeks from the Greek-speaking who have flooded Greece, while it advocates for policies of extreme anti-immigration both in relation to the border control as well as concerning integration, which the Spartiates rule out. The Greek-oriented approach runs through all areas of this party's policy, without, however, lacking positive references to European values and a united Europe. Opposition to modern lifestyles is pervasive in its positions: the LGBTQI community is presented as an expression of anomaly, whose claims it opposes without the slightest retreat. The Spartiates prioritize excellence and entrepreneurship and present themselves as a party that defends the Market. Both the aesthetics and the policies proposed by the Spartiates have a strong militaristic element: the armed forces are prominent in both the party's constitution and its positions. Although it remains to be seen whether it will evolve into an actual successor to the Chrisi Avgi (Dinas et al. 2016) and what practices it will follow, statutorily it does not seem to oppose the constitution of parliamentary democracy. It is, however, distinguished by a narrative that projects redemptive motifs ('to save our country morally, politically, geographically'), while in the party's public statements there are elements of a political discourse with totalitarian overtones ('strength for battle', 'timeless unanimity', etc.).
Between the three parties currently represented in Parliament, the Elliniki Lissi (Hellenic Solution) (4.44%) is the only one that has had a previous mandate in both the national and the European Parliament. Founded in 2016, it was favoured by the electoral collapse of the Chrisi Avgi. It has characteristic motifs of the populist-radical version of the far right: opposition to the political establishment and denunciation of party elites, nativism and national priority, and an appeal to a “dynamic democracy” that counters the “static” and “economic interest-dependent” parliamentary version. Central to its profile is its tendency for conspiracy and fake news. The Elliniki Lissi leader has his own shows on small TV channels from which he projects the image of a country under attack from all sides, with him promoting “solutions” for its “salvation”. These “solutions” incorporate both Orthodoxy and Russia along with its President, Vladimir Putin. Elliniki Lissi keeps making the case that a turn to Russia and the use of Orthodoxy can provide a way out of the problems and risks - economic and cultural - the country is confronted with. It is an outspoken pro-Russian party that opposed European sanctions on Russia following the latter's invasion of Ukraine. In terms of its economic programme, it cultivates a mixed narrative, being in favor, on the one hand, of the free Market and entrepreneurship and, on the other, of state interventionism in social welfare issues, albeit with a clear national chauvinist bias in the sense that it promotes social policies with strictly ethnocentric criteria (Georgiadou, Mavropoulou 2022). Finally, as far as foreign policy issues are concerned, Hellenic Solution strongly opposed the Prespa Agreement and participated in the mobilizations against the signing of the agreement that took place in regions of northern Greece, especially in central Macedonia, where it built its electoral strongholds, maintained until today.
Niki (Victory) (3.69%) was founded in 2017, but was first active in the May 2023 elections. It calls itself a Democratic Patriotic Movement that aims to “the victory of Hellenism and human dignity”. It is an ultra-conservative, religious party based on a network of priests and monks of Mount Athos, religious and para-religious organizations located mainly in Northern Greece. The primacy of the Church over the State is a core party position. Niki expresses strong Russophilia, with a background of Orthodox faith, and passionately opposed the Prespa Agreement, which it still touches upon, highlighting the issue as a major stake. Both Niki's discourse and its positions are strongly archaic: attached to the Orthodox religious tradition, it is animated by strong negative feelings about her country's present and an idealized nostalgia for its past. The feelings of shame, victimization and frustration structure a narrative of Greece's biological, spiritual and territorial self-destruction. The party opposes liberal values, the modern way of life and the EU. It expresses itself against parties and recognizes as its mission the ‘abolition of partisanship’, while denying the Left-Right separation in politics, claiming that it expresses ‘the whole’. Using ancient Greek motifs, it speaks of the Greekness of Macedonia and the national threats that surround us, with Orthodoxy being presented as a factor in tackling these threats. Pan-Islamism, pan-Slavism and Turkey are identified as prominent threats. In its party programme, clear anti-vaccinationist motifs and anti-immigration positions can be identified, while the demographic issue is framed through an ultra-conservative perspective.
The national-populist background and the anti-vaccine stance are common to the three parties, as well as nostalgia for an idealised past, for national traditions and historical and religious roots. In terms of electoral geography, the three parties have higher than average electoral strength in Eastern and Central Macedonia and Thrace. Elliniki Lissi and Niki also gather high percentages in Eastern Greece and the Peloponnese, while Spartiates and Elliniki Lissi also gather strength in the Ionian, Aegean and Cretan islands, and the former having a larger dispersion in the national territory compared to the other two far-right parties.
The fragmentation of the far-right space may make them less of a danger in terms of party competition than they would have been if the far-right pole had been unified, but the new fact of institutional representation, combined with the sum of their electoral power, produces de facto political consequences. Being now in the parliamentary arena, the three far-right parties have many opportunities to propagate their ideas, but also to expose their behavior and practices - a coin, that indeed has two sides. The recent parliamentary elections demonstrated more emphatically than the previous ones (Georgiadou, Rori 2022), namely that there are electoral reservoirs available that can feed the far right and strengthen its electoral presence.
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