How a far-right Greek party is gaining with a ‘coalition of voters’ ahead of the EP elections

With Europeans set to go to the polls this weekend, Greek voters look poised to boost the fortunes of Greek Solution – and that of the European Conservatives and Reformists group.
Kyriakos Velopoulos, leader of the Greek Solution party, after the announcement of national election results in June 2023.

By Raluca Besliu

Raluca is a freelance reporter based in Belgium

04 Jun 2024

Greek Solution, an ultranationalist far-right party created in 2016, is gaining traction in the polls as Greeks prepare to vote in the European Parliament elections on 9 June. 

The latest statistics from Europe Elects place it in fourth place, trailing Greece’s largest and most prominent parties: governing centre-right New Democracy, left-wing Syriza and centre-left Pasok.

Greek Solution solidified its increasing relevance on the Greek political scene in June 2023, when it secured 12 seats in the Hellenic Parliament with 4.4 per cent of the vote.

This marked a watershed moment in Greek politics, as two other far-right parties – the Spartans, considered a descendent of the now banned neo-Nazi party Golden Dawn, and Victory, an ultra-religious, pro-Russia, anti-immigration party – also gained seats in the national parliament.

It was not Greek Solution's first entry into the Hellenic Parliament, having previously won 10 seats in the 2019 elections, the most among the far-right parties. It also secured one seat in the 2019 European Parliament elections.

Though it espouses ultra-nationalist and religious views akin to the Spartans and Victory, Greek Solution cultivates a more moderate image.

Kyriakos Velopoulos, president of Greek Solution and a member of the national parliament, has secured praise in Greece’s mainstream media outlets – including for a March speech criticising Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis over the deadly February 2023 Tempi train crash. The accident, which killed 57, was widely blamed on the government's failure to upgrade ageing infrastructure.

Greek Solution is now polling at around 9 per cent for the EP elections, according to Europe Elects — a gain of around five percentage points within a year.

Daphne Halikiopoulou, chair of comparative politics at the University of York, told The Parliament that, in Greece, as in many other parts of Europe, there is a “latent support for far-right parties.”

This refers to an underlying pool of potential voters who could be mobilised to back far-right causes under certain conditions, suggesting an untapped base for these parties.

“With the economic crisis, the Golden Dawn, which was an extreme, Nazi and violent party, not like Greek Solution, went from no support to securing seats in the Hellenic Parliament,” she said. “While Golden Dawn has since imploded, its voters, or rather the voters on this far-right spectrum, continue to exist and seek parties to support.”

Unlike Greek Solution, Golden Dawn was violent, targeting leftists, immigrants, and other perceived enemies through hit squads. In 2020, the Athens Court of Appeal designated Golden Dawn a criminal organisation, convicting its leader and other members.

Meanwhile, Halikiopoulou noted that Greek Solution has won the support of a “coalition of voters," comprising people with “nationalistic or xenophobic attitudes, but also people with none of these attitudes, who are simply protest voters dissatisfied with the current status quo.”

Latent support doesn't always lead to voting, but Halikiopoulou emphasised that specific triggers can mobilise those tendencies – including legislation that alienates voters, pushing them to seek alternatives.

In February, Greece voted to legalise same-sex marriage – the first law of its kind in an Orthodox Christian European country – through a cross-party majority of 176 parliamentarians out of 300. But in a nation in which roughly 80 per cent of people consider religion to be an important part of their lives, the topic was bound to be divisive.

Indeed, a January 2024 survey conducted by Greek pollster Alco showed that 49 per cent of Greeks opposed legalising same-sex marriage. Only 35 per cent were in favour.

Greek Solution strongly condemned the same-sex marriage law, claiming it “goes against centuries of norms and values,” a nod to the Greek Orthodox Church, whose values the party claims to uphold.

Now, the far-right party’s strong stance on the law could persuade some Greek voters to support it in the upcoming elections.

“In a nationalistic country, very strongly defined by not just religion, but values such as language and history, I am surprised that the far right is not stronger,” argued Halikiopoulou.

At the same time, she noted that the far right’s success across the EU has reduced the stigma of voting for such parties, normalising their support. “Nationalist voters no longer feel isolated, but rather part of the majority, making it easier to go and vote for the far-right."

Greek Solution voters tend to “self-describe either as right or far right, or not having a political affiliation,” Sofia Vasilopoulou, a professor of European Politics at King’s College London, told The Parliament.

“In the EP election,” Vasilopoulou added, “Greek Solution is hoping to tap into the group of disillusioned New Democracy voters.”

There is growing popular discontent with New Democracy, despite its significant legislative victory in 2023, when it secured over 40 per cent of the vote and left its main rival, the left-wing Syriza, far behind with only 17.8 per cent.

A recent Alco poll revealed widespread dissatisfaction among Greek citizens with rising prices, attributed to government inaction. Around 87 per cent of respondents believe that the government should implement measures to address the issue. 

While New Democracy faces challenges, the left has been unable to coordinate due to deep divisions on issues like Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Israel’s actions in Gaza and climate change.

But Greek Solution has been able to mobilise voters around hot-button topics like immigration. An April survey by ARTE revealed that 90 per cent of Greeks think their country takes in too many migrants, with a similar percentage advocating for strong EU measures against illegal immigration.

In 2019, Velopoulos had suggested relocating migrants and refugees to deserted Greek islands.

Marilyn Polena, the general manager of Solidarity Now, a Greek nonprofit that documents and advocates against racial violence, told The Parliament that “targeting vulnerable communities can capture public support in Greece and everywhere else, particularly under conditions of economic instability."

As for this weekend’s elections, the two-to-three seats that Greek Solution could secure out of Greece’s total 21 in the European Parliament would bolster the right-wing European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) group.

The ECR is projected to become the fourth-largest political bloc after the elections. The other major far-right group, Identity and Democracy (ID), is forecast to be the fifth-largest group.

“ECR will be able to pass laws on certain topics of concern and gather a concentrated opposition against others, such as the Green Deal,” said Halikiopoulou.

“Still, ECR, ID, and the unaffiliated MEPs are not always united. There are issues that they bicker on: this is a key weakness.”

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