The Far-Right Just Made a Shock Comeback in Greece

The Spartans – a new far-right party – has been described as a backchannel for a jailed neo-Nazi from the banned Golden Dawn party to exert influence.
greece spartans golden dawn
Demonstrators clashing with riot police during the Golden Dawn trial in Athens, 2020. PHOTO: Socrates Baltagiannis/picture alliance via Getty Images.

Less than three years after Greek neo-Nazi party Golden Dawn was outlawed and its leadership jailed, the far-right has made a big comeback in the country’s elections, led by one party described as Golden Dawn in disguise.

The incumbent centre-right New Democracy Party easily won Sunday’s national elections with a landslide 40.5 percent of the vote. But observers were alarmed by Greek voters sending not just one, but three far-right parties into parliament, who won nearly 13 percent of the vote between them.


The most successful of these parties – a previously little-known ultranationalist group called the Spartans – is widely seen as a direct descendant of the now-banned neo-Nazi party Golden Dawn. Experts fear that the party is a vehicle for one of its jailed former leaders, Ilias Kasidiaris, to continue his political project from behind bars, and that the election result could lead to the normalisation of extreme ideologies and end up influencing government policies. 

“From my perspective, Spartans can be seen as the continuation of Golden Dawn, with Kasidiaris acting as their de facto leader,” Georgios Samaras, a lecturer in public policy at King’s College London and an expert on Golden Dawn, told VICE News.

Kasidiaris, a former Golden Dawn MP and spokesman, is currently serving a 13-year sentence alongside other members of Golden Dawn’s leadership, after they were found guilty in 2020 of directing a criminal organisation. The case was triggered by the murder of an antifascist rapper by a Golden Dawn supporter in 2013, and it officially spelled an end to the party, which had upended Greek politics by twice winning 7 percent of the vote to become the country’s third-largest political party.


Kasidiaris founded a breakaway party, Greeks for the Fatherland, later renamed Hellenes, to continue his brand of extremist politics before the verdict was reached in the case. But when Hellenes was banned by the courts from contesting the most recent Greek elections, Kasidiaris appears to have struck upon using the previously obscure far-right party Spartans as the latest vehicle for his politics. 

“Hellenes was banned, therefore Kasidiaris needed a new home,” said Samaras.

He said at least five of the Spartans’ 12 new MPs were either close associates of Kasidiaris or Golden Dawn, or former candidates for Hellenes.

Ahead of the election, Kasidiaris had tweeted his support for the Spartans from jail. Afterwards, he hailed the results as “a great triumph for Greece and our homeland”. The Spartans’ leader Vasilis Stigkas was quick to publicly thank “Kasidiaris for being the fuel that gave us the impetus to reach this result.”

Samaras told VICE News that the endorsement from Kasidiaris – who reportedly has a swastika tattoo on his arm, and once repeatedly slapped a leftwing female MP on a TV talk show – had “played a crucial role” in the electoral success of the Spartans. He described the party as “an extremist neo-Nazi party that has demonstrated its allegiance to Golden Dawn's legacy.”


“Without his support, the party would likely not have gained any seats in the Greek Parliament,” he said, adding that clearly a “significant portion” of voters were waiting for the next move from Kasidiaris. He said the success of the Spartans in the aftermath of the collapse of Golden Dawn was “deeply concerning,” and an indictment on both the party’s supporters, and the Greek political system for failing to prevent the return of right-wing extremist politics.

“There are no excuses here,” he said. “Their supporters are well aware of the group's beliefs and its association with neo-Nazism.” 

The government had “failed to implement effective legal measures to address the resurgence of Golden Dawn adequately.”

“Golden Dawn has returned under a disguise, bypassing the current legislation and making it to the parliament comfortably,” he said.

Ioannis Papadopoulos, a journalist for Greece’s Katherimini newspaper who has been covering Golden Dawn since 2010, said he was alarmed by the outcome of the election. Alongside the Spartans, which he described as “only a vessel to carry Kasidiaris’ faithful fans and their votes until he gets out of prison,” two other nationalist or ultraconservative parties won seats, representing different segments of the far-right electorate.

They included the ultranationalist Greek Solution, with 12 MPs, and the ultra-religious, anti-abortion Niki, which entered parliament for the first time with 10 seats.

“The main danger will be the normalisation of extreme ideology, since the far-right is represented by three parties,” he told VICE News. He said this raised the possibility that the conservative government could end up seeking to placate these groups on human rights issues “that shouldn’t be of public debate.”