Greece points toward stability as neo-Nazi party crashes out of parliament

The Greek election this past Sunday presented Europe with a dash of optimism, as a dynamic new leader won in a landslide and anti-immigrant, neo-Nazi party Golden Dawn tumbled out of parliament, said an analysis for The New York Times. 

“Having lost a quarter of its economy in a devastating recession, Greece has turned the corner, its democracy intact, its extremist temptations defeated and its anti-Americanism defunct,” Times’ columnist Roger Cohen wrote on Monday. 

In addition to putting the centre-right New Democracy party and its leader, Harvard-educated Kyriakos Mitsotakis, into power, Greece pushed out far-right Golden Dawn. 

“At the height of the crisis, Golden Dawn had become the country’s third-largest party,” said Cohen. “First into populism, Greece is now first out.”

Golden Dawn had 18 lawmakers in the outgoing 300-member Parliament, having won 7 percent of the vote in September 2015.  

“We are sending a message to our enemies and so-called friends: Golden Dawn is not finished,” said party leader Nikos Mihaloliakos, according to Kathimerini. “The fight for nationalism continues.”

Though unemployment has fallen to about 18 percent and the economy has achieved some modest growth, Greece is still bound by the fiscal constraints imposed by Germany and other creditors, according to Cohen. 

Mitsotakis will need to perform a delicate balancing act, reining in New Democracy’s cronyism and prioritising entrepreneurship and innovation, the columnist said. 

Several factors, including “new tensions with Turkey that have reminded Greece of the importance of American support”, have curbed Greek anti-Americanism, according to Cohen. 

“Mitsotakis will take office with Turkey and the Greek Cypriot government embroiled in conflict over offshore oil and gas in the eastern Mediterranean,” said Cohen. 

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was the first foreign leader to congratulate Mitsotakis on his victory. “Our desire is not to experience any sort of difficulty in the Mediterranean and in the Aegean in the upcoming period,” Erdoğan said on Monday, in reference to the Greek election. 

Yet the U.S. State Department has described Ankara’s drilling in an area claimed by Cyprus as “highly provocative” and urged Turkish authorities to “halt these operations”. The new prime minister likely hopes to calm regional tensions.  

“Greece wants a Turkey anchored in the West, not a Turkey veering toward Vladimir Putin’s Russia and acting bellicose,” said Cohen.