Far-right parties have made a comeback in Greek parliamentary elections, including the Spartans party backed by a jailed former lawmaker from an organization linked to violent street attacks against migrants and left-wing activists
ATHENS, Greece — A little-known political party endorsed by a jailed former lawmaker won seats in Greece’s next parliament in an election Sunday, signaling a political comeback for the far right.
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 origins linked to multiple violent street attacks.
Ahead of Sunday’s election, parliament had introduced tougher rules on election eligibility designed to block Kasidiaris from running as a candidate. A party he founded in prison was also disqualified and he switched 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 prison in central Greece.
The center-right New Democracy party won a landslide victory in Sunday’s election, handing conservative leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis a second term as prime minister. He inflicted a stinging defeat on their main rivals, the left-wing Syriza party, while three smaller parties were set to gain 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 gained a following over its opposition to the government’s COVID-19 vaccination program. The nationalist Hellenic Solution was returned to parliament.
With 4.7% of the popular vote, the Spartans are set to win 13 seats in the 300-member parliament. Vassilis Stigas, the party’s leader, publicly thanked Kasidiaris for his support in remarks late Sunday.
“We will represent Greek ideals and values in the next parliament, values that are currently absent,” said Stigas, a businessman and former airplane mechanic.
Stella Ladi, a political scientist and associate professor at Queen Mary University in London, said support had become entrenched for the far-right in many European countries.
“After Mitsotakis victory, this is the second most significant outcome of today’s election and it’s where we need to turn our attention over the next few years,” Ladi told the AP.
“We need to understand why a country which was traditionally leaning to the left 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 surged during the politically traumatic years of the financial crisis in the previous decade. The party was represented in parliament over seven years and four election cycles before falling short of the 3% threshold required for parliamentary representation in 2019 elections.
Kasidiaris and other members of the party’s leadership were jailed in 2020 after being convicted of membership of a criminal organization over its connection to multiple violent street attacks targeting migrants and left-wing political activists.