Key takeaways from the June 25th Greek elections:
- The ruling right-wing New Democracy party elected 158 MPs and can form a government without the need to depend on a coalition.
- SYRIZA continued its downward trend.
- Three far-right parties were elected to parliament. The far-right vote totalled 13,93%.
- The Communist Party, KKE, kept its forces but Varoufakis’ DiEM25 did not cross the 3% threshold and stayed out of parliament.
On May 21st, the general elections in Greece were held under a law that provided for a more proportional representation system. Thus, while New Democracy won, getting more than 40%, it did not have an absolute majority to form a government. So, they called for new elections on June 25.
The fact that the gap between the first and the second party was so big, but also the fact that the Left was either stagnant or in decline, unable to inspire any dynamic to the rank and file, led to an election “campaign” that was almost virtually non-existent. People were either indifferent or marginally interested, as they felt that there was nothing really at stake.
Consequently, the abstention rate was over 47%, extremely high by Greek standards. If blank votes (1.1%) are also included, close to 48,5% i.e., nearly half the eligible voters essentially did not take a position in favor of any party.
Almost 835.000 less voters took to the polls compared to one month ago. A bit more than 6 million people voted in May, while 5.230.000 voted in June, with participation figures at 61,1% and 52,8% respectively.
The rise in the abstention rate affected all parties, albeit on a different level.
Because of the higher abstention rate, New Democracy kept its percentage stable, while losing 300.000 votes. It also was able to elect more MPs, as the June 25 elections were held under an election law which provided the first party with a 50-seat bonus.
SYRIZA suffered a huge blow at the May 21 elections, getting only 20% of the vote. It fell even further in the June elections, losing 250.000 extra votes and dropping to 17,8%.
The social democratic PASOK established a partial comeback to double-digit percentages, keeping its 11+% of the vote. It is still very far behind the support it enjoyed in the decades before the 2010 crisis.
The CP (KKE) also kept its forces, and is now the only left-wing party in parliament, getting 7,69% and more than 400.000 votes.
The far-right was the main winner of these elections. Three far-right parties entered parliament: the “Spartans” (4,6%), “Greek Solution” (4,44%) and “Niki” (3,69%). In total, the 7 far-right parties that contested these elections got almost 14% and 725.000 votes.
The party “Freedom Course”, led by the former head of parliament under SYRIZA, Zoi Konstantopoulou, although also practically inactive until just before the elections, entered the parliament on a programme which combines some left but also some far-right features.
Varoufakis’ DiEM25 (MERA25 in Greek) was not able to overturn the May 21 bad result, on the contrary, it lost even more votes and remained out of parliament. This development objectively poses a question mark over its future.
The anticapitalist alliance ANTARSYA also suffered a big loss, even compared to its May 21 results, dropping from 30 to 15 thousand votes (from around 0.5% to 0.3%).
Overall, the results represent a negative outcome for the working class and the oppressed in Greece. The right-wing ND government is strengthened, and so is the case with the far-right – this is something which at some point will be reflected in the streets. The Left is weakened, with only one party in parliament, and has seen its forces shrink (with the exeption of the CP, which does not change the picture). The results create a feeling of despair in wide layers of progressive people who feel even much weaker to counter the right and far-right offensive. The forces of the anticapitalist Left urgently need to propose a plan on how to deal with this situation.
The far-right bares its teeth again
The results of the far-right shocked many people and created both feelings of disillusionment and concern. A sober analysis of what took place and how to deal with this new challenge is necessary.
To start with, we need to note that in Greece the far-right was always strong. Capitalism and its corrupt state machine used the far-right to counter the militant traditions of the working class. Since its inception, the Greek far-right was inextricably linked to the police, the army, the church and all the “deep state” institutions, which were built on an anti-communist basis.
This feature gave prominence from time to time to far-right figures, who sought to capitalise on the support of a section of the ruling class and who could rally the conservative layers of society. Thus, what is happening now is not something new for Greece.
The admittedly good result of the June 25 elections for the far-right is actually not as good as their 2012 result.
In the May 2012 elections, Golden Dawn and Kamenos’ ANEL gathered 1,112,290 votes and 17.59%, with LAOS out of parliament with 2.89% and 182,925 votes. Cumulatively, the far-right gathered more than 20% back then. Golden Dawn was the largest parliamentary Nazi party in Europe at the time, it tightly controlled some Athens neighbourhoods, it had armed “attack squads”, etc.
Of course, there are important differences with that period. SYRIZA was still a left-wing party and the movements were on the rise, with historic mobilisations taking place in different levels (general strikes, non-payment movements, huge environmental struggles, ect). Back then there was optimism, militancy and hope, whereas today there is a sense of deadlock and retreat. The responsibilities for this lay of course with the capitulation of SYRIZA from 2015 onwards and the bad state of the Left today.
The current far-right parties, for the moment, are only electoral structures and do not have a sizeable member base. They do not have assault squads, they are not involved in local mobilisations, they have serious rivalries and disputes among them. This does not mean that the situation will remain as it is and that we will not see a resurgence of physical attacks against left activists and people belonging to minorities.
The most dangerous of the far-right parties is a new party, the Spartans (Spartiates), who managed to rank 5th and enter parliament with only a few weeks of campaigning! Notably, in the 17-34 age group, they got 9.2% of the vote.
This was a dead in the water party, which was used by Ilias Kasidiaris, the second ranking cadre of Golden Dawn who is still in prison, to enter the election race under the High Court radar.
Golden Dawn was declared a criminal organisation in 2020, after a long battle, and its leadership was jailed. Besides this, the government and the legal system turned a blind eye to Kasidiaris, who was systematically campaigning from inside his cell. Only some months before the elections, the Parliament and the High Court finally declared his party illegal. They did this not out of antifascist rigor, but out of fear for the votes the far-right would have cost New Democracy, as they are battling for the same voter base. But they seem to have missed the Spartans, Kasidiaris’ shell party, which stood as an anti-establishment force. Although Kasidiaris did not stand in the Spartans election list after the High Court decision, he openly supported this party. Immediately after the elections he stated
“I will be out of prison in a few months and will lead the struggle”
Kasidiaris tries to present himself as more modest than in the past. He tries to hide the swastika tattoo on his forearm under a “new suit”.
But at the recent pride march in Athens, groups of 17-year old supporters of Kasidiaris tried attacking LGBTQI+ people and similar scenes were repeated in Thessaloniki, on June 24.
It is clear that Kasidiaris’ neo-nazis are trying to get a foothold in neighbourhoods, cities and social spaces. The election results will certainly boost their morale and multiply their actions.
Old and new dangers
The first task for the antifascist movement and the Left is to recognize the outcome of these elections as a serious defeat and to honestly seek its root causes. To stop shifting responsibility for these results to the people, letting off the hook the political leaderships who are really to blame. To find the correct balance and to provide an alternative for society going forward.
The truth is that there is a big audience which is attracted to the ideas of the far right. This was reflected in the election results, but also in a number of recent surveys.
The far right today has opened up its agenda far beyond its standard xenophobic, homophobic, nationalist rhetoric. For example, it has created groups of parents who intervene in schools and demand the withdrawal of sex education. It systematically intervenes against the right to abortion. It considers the climate crisis to be a myth of the system. It cultivates irrationality and conspiracy theories at every opportunity, fishing in the murky waters of anti-vax and lumpen elements in society. It intervenes in football fans through local clubs and in culture with the focus on trap music groups that promote sexism.
New challenges for the anti-fascist movement and the Left
On the other hand, it is the Left and some sections of the Anarchists that play the main role in important and victorious movements. Let us cite some examples:
- The ban on marches, for which the government used the pandemic as a pretext, was defied in practice by determined mobilisations.
- The plan to create a University Police body, a central policy of the government, was postponed a number of times and is, for the moment, left aside.
- A number of local environmental movements in different regions of the country took to the streets, and in some cases they were successful.
- Mass feminist mobilisations broke out in different circumstances, with the March 8 and pride marches being very well attended. This has led to a widespread acceptance of the demands of the feminist and LGBTQI movements.
- A number of workplace struggles were organised from below, and in some cases (as the E-food delivery workers strike) led to victories.
In all these movements and struggles, the Left and some anarchist groups played a leading role. These movements shaped Greek society to a certain extent in the recent period, and they surely give a more accurate picture about actual the balance of forces on the ground.
As far as the anti-fascist struggle is concerned, which needs to be relaunched with added emphasis, our guide should be October 7, 2020, when tens of thousands of anti-fascists achieved the unprecedented condemnation of Golden Dawn as a criminal Nazi organization. Previously, the antifascist movement had managed to eject GD out of parliament in July 2019. We are talking about a party that had been in parliament for 7 years and came third in the 2014 European elections, eight months after the P. Fyssas murder, scoring 9.3% and half a million votes.
How did the anti-fascist movement achieve this? There were thousands of events of all kinds. Marches and counter-rallies against every attempt by fascists to appear on the streets. Committees of Action were set up in neighbourhoods and workplaces. Material was produced that answered the arguments of the fascists one by one and revealed their links to capital and the system.
Central to this is the unity of the movement in action. With the wider possible unity, we can change the balance of forces in society.
On another level, crucial to the anti-fascist struggle is if the anticapitalist Left will attempt to rally around an alternative political programme and create a new political formation to combat the system. If the anticapitalist/revolutionary Left does not engage in such a struggle, it will leave a vacuum in society, which will provide new opportunities to the far-right (see Xekinima’s proposals for the Left here).
Lastly, the international cooperation of the anti-fascist struggle is crucial, as the rise of the far-right is an international phenomenon.