Major shake-up at top, bottom of Greece's political spectrum - Successful debut by Varoufakis' party; switch of right-wing parties

Monday, 27 May 2019 13:50

Exit poll results are displayed on a screen at the Plenary Hall during the election night for European elections at the European Parliament in Brussels, Belgium, May 26, 2019. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir

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Sunday's European Parliament elections witnessed a change at the top and bottom of the political spectrum in Greece, as center-right New Democracy (ND) handily defeated hard left SYRIZA, whereas a handful of smaller parties that entered Parliament during the 2015 elections essentially "vanished" from the political landscape.

Another noteworthy development is the halving of votes (below 5 percent) for ultra-nationalist Golden Dawn (Chryssi Avgi), which many political analysts charge is a neo-Nazi formation. At the same time, a fledgling far-right party, Elliniki Lysi (Greek Solution) took the place of the Independent Greeks (AN.EL) party, which served as SYRIZA junior coalition partner until early 2019.

Other "casualties" were the centrist Potami party and the Union of Centrists, both of whom fell far below the 3-percent threshold (of valid votes) needed for representation in both the European Parliament and the national legislature.

In their place was the surprise showing of Yanis Varoufakis' newly created Mera25 (Diem25) party, which surpassed the 3-percent threshold (4.1 percent) and elected a single MEP, former SYRIZA MEP Sofia Sakorafa, a javelin champion in the 1980s.

Potami (River) party dried out, earning just 1.59 percent of the vote, as of Monday morning. Potami was founded and led by television presenter and journalist Stavros Theodorakis, who saw his middle-of-road party scrambled over the Prespa agreement and MPs raided by ND and SYRIZA.

The populist AN.EL party, led by controversial former defense minister Panos Kammenos, was obliterated in the Europarliament election, receiving only 0.80 percent. Kammenos, expelled from ND in 2012, was amongst the most vocal right-wing opponents of bailout agreements, austerity policy and whatever concessions to institutional creditors. The party's MPs propped up Alexis Tsipras' SYRIZA government up until early this year, before the Prespa agreement also acted as its "political dissolvent".

First-place ND sends nine MEPs to Brussels, with Stelios Kympouropoulos first amongst all of Greece's European parliament candidates, with 211,358 votes. Kympouropoulos (@Kympouropoulos), a psychiatrist by training, has been confined to a wheelchair with very limited mobility since a teenager, when he was diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy.

He was Greece's first-ever handicapped flag-bearer at a public secondary school, and after a relevant law was changed to allow him the honor as the valedictorian. After finishing the Athens medical school with honors, he studied in a post-grad program overseas with a scholarship.

Incumbent MEP Dimitris Papadimoulis came in first in SYRIZA's candidate list, with 105,899 votes.

Behind Papadimoulis is another political surprise emanating from the four-year "strange bedfellows" coalition between SYRIZA and AN.EL, as former tourism minister Elena Kountoura attracted 82,620 votes as a candidate in the left-wing party's list.

Kountoura started her political career in ND, where she was located in that party once-influential right-of-center wing. She subsequently joined Kammenos as a top cadre in right-wing and anti-bailout AN.EL, only to abandoned the latter and vote in favor of the Prespa agreement in 2019. Previously, Kountoura had been amongst the most hard-line Greek politicians vis-a-vis the "fyrom name issue".

The Elliniki Lysi (Greek or Hellenic Solution) party is another highly interesting manifestation on Greece' s political scene.

The party was founded by Kyriakos Velopoulos, a Thessaloniki-based television pitchman for alternative book editions - including  conspiracy theories - and other mail-order products. He was also a one-time MP for yet another small right-wing and Euro-skeptic party, LA.OS, in Parliament up until 2015.

His own new party is equally weary of the EU, pro-Church and fond of relations with Russia. Among the most eyebrow-raising books hawked by Velopoulos at one point - in paid programs on local TV stations -  was a edition featuring so-called "hand-written" epistles by Jesus Christ.

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