How did the far-right score at the May 21 Greek elections

For context, read our post-election analysis here

No less than 50 parties applied to the Supreme Court in order to stand candidates at the May 21 Greek legislative elections. 16 of them were far-right parties. Four of them were disqualified. The remaining 12 far-right parties that finally made it to the polls, got a total of 11.22% – about 630,000 votes.

This is compared to four far-right parties that participated in the 2019 elections, which got a total of 7.62% and 430,000 votes.

Hellenic Solution saw their results increase with 53,000 votes and 0.75%; they got a total of 4.45% and 262,000 votes, scoring up to 8.35% in some areas (Thessaloniki). Niki (Victory), a party which participated in the elections for the first time and seems to have close ties with the Greek Orthodox Church, got 2.92% and 172,000 votes. It looks like they got their votes largely from the party of Ilias Kasidiaris, one of the Golden Dawn leaders who is now in jail and whose party was disqualified. Niki was only set up shortly before the elections and had no political or organisational structures up to now. It is a far-right, religious, anti-abortion party. Its president is theologist from Thessaloniki, Dimitris Natsios, which probably explains how it managed to get up to almost 7.5% in some regions of Northern Greece.

But the far-right is not contained only in far-right parties. Several far-right politicians are members of the New Democracy party which won the elections (Antonis Samaras, Adonis Georgiades, Makis Voridis, Thanos Plevris). They were all elected and scored very high results. New Democracy and the far-right together got almost 52% in total and 3.000.000 votes in these elections. The numbers speak for themselves and do not allow for underestimating the problem.

A complex situation

Even though the above numbers are impressive, they are not sufficient to justify an argument about a total rightward shift of society, conservatisation, let alone,”Orbanisation” or “Erdoganisation”, as many militants from the Left and movements have argued in the last days. A panic reaction and pessimism every time a negative election result comes up, is not the way to face the extreme right.

We can recall similar cases in the past, like after Trump’s victory in the USA or important victories of the right in previous elections in Greece.

A very important movement has recently unfolded in Greece, after the train accident at Tempi that cost the lives of 57 people. Thanks to this movement, 2,500,000 demonstrators took to the streets on March 8. In the recent student elections in Greece, the student organisation of the Communist Party came first for the second consecutive year. Extra-parliamentarian left-wing formations also scored very high results in the same elections. We should also not forget the historic victory of the antifascist movement 2 and a half years ago, forcing the condemnation of Golden Dawn as a Nazi criminal organisation.

What all these facts point to is that the situation is complex and a one-sided analysis cannot grasp reality.

Of course there are layers of society that have adopted far-right or reactionary ideas. Recent surveys by Signal researching and confronting the far-right, a civil non-profit company and by Eteron– Institute for Research and Social Change, a non-profit organisation, show that around 25% of the population are open to far-right ideas, while 22.3% claim that Golden Dawn’s presence can be positive, as long as it does not commit criminal acts.

At the same time, however, and according to the same surveys, the population’s attitude towards issues such as same-sex marriage or the right to adoption by same-sex couples, is polarised or split. According to the Eteron survey, the majority of the youth support the renationalisation of the railways and are willing to participate in struggles.

The same survey shows that the youth is primarily expressed politically and ideologically by democratic socialism (14.7%) while neoliberalism is at 4.3%, nationalism at 5.6%, communism at 5.1% and anarchism at 3.4%.

The common denominator of all these surveys is that the political system and the media are not credible as a whole and that people, especially youth, do not trust them. People treat elections with cynicism and a punitive attitude. Most people are not moved, excited or inspired by any party. Abstention and blank votes reach 40%. The far right is modernising, mutating, forming new parties, peddling its full range of reactionary positions in a more easy to grasp way.

Lack of a convincing alternative from the Left

The left has unfortunately no convincing alternative to offer (read our contribution in the discussions inside the Left here).

SYRIZA, whose leadership has sold out and compromised with the system after the 2015 referendum, is not regarded as Left anymore.

The leadership of the Communist Party (KKE) has ceased to be a threat to the establishment, decades ago. On the other hand, the extra-parliamentary left is so fragmented and sectarian that it fails to be visible and have a mass impact. Even though it is the members and cadres of these left groups who launch many struggles and campaigns, this is not reflected in the ballot box.

The leadership of SYRIZA and its cadres talk about the “Orbanisation” of society in a pejorative way. They do so in order to conceal their own responsibility for the many victories of New Democracy. They keep putting the blame on the people who vote for a party linked to repression and scandals, instead of checking themselves for their own responsibilities. So did Yanis Varoufakis, secretary of MERA25, who is also defending the idea of “Orbanisation” of society, even though he has been calling this same society to join him in a process of rupture with the system.

Such views cannot contribute in drawing balanced political conclusions and certainly do not help society, the Left and the movement to move forward.

We can learn a lot from the defeat of May 21. As long as we do not consider society and the working people as already won by the right and the far-right. We need to explain how a combination of neoliberalism and extreme right policies work, in an informed and patient way, instead of letting fascists and the extreme right set the political agenda.

Above all, the forces of the militant Left who have a united front approach should find common ground and offer to the movement a credible left political alternative in the years to come.

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