ATHENS (Reuters) - The far-right Golden Dawn party has failed to win a single seat in Greece’s new parliament, an outcome political analysts said reflects a slow improvement in the country’s fortunes after years of wrenching economic crisis.
Golden Dawn, known for its militaristic rallies featuring flaming torches and Nazi salutes, saw its support in Sunday’s election tumble to 2.9 percent - just below the three percent needed to enter parliament - from 6.9 percent in the 2015 poll.
The conservative New Democracy party won the election and its leader, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, replaced Alexis Tsipras of the leftist Syriza party as prime minister on Monday.
Golden Dawn chief Nikos Mihaloliakos struck a defiant note.
“Golden Dawn is not over, they had better understand this,” he said in a televised statement late on Sunday. “We will continue our fight for nationalism. We’ll return to where we grew strong, on the streets, on the squares.”
Golden Dawn had been the fourth biggest party in the previous parliament, tapping a deep vein of anger among Greeks over international bailouts which saw EU and IMF officials dictating the terms of Greece’s national budgets.
It also exploited some Greeks’ unease about large numbers of migrants, mostly Muslims fleeing conflicts in the Middle East and beyond, arriving on Greek islands from Turkey en route to western Europe.
“The element of rage (among Greek voters) is no longer here,” said Dimitris Mavros, head of MRB pollsters, commenting on the decline of Golden Dawn.
“Greeks have realized that the system must be fixed for the country to move forward.”
Golden Dawn drew its support from a siege mentality that developed among some Greeks after years of crisis, though its voters were not necessarily of the far-right.
With the end of Greece’s international bailouts last year and a return to modest economic growth, the national mood has mellowed and the lure of more radical parties has dimmed.
Despite Golden Dawn’s defeat, another far-right party, Hellenic Solution, did squeeze into parliament. It has promised to build a wall to keep out migrants and backs a referendum on restoring maximum punishment, not excluding the death penalty, for drug dealers and pedophiles, but its style is more blandly managerial.
New Democracy, which will now form the government, has promised to defend Greek sovereignty, fight crime, reinforce police and prison security, abolish academic asylum rules that ban police from entering universities and get help from Europe on patrolling Greece’s porous borders.
Golden Dawn has lost up to 35 percent of its voters since EU elections six weeks ago, said Costas Panagopoulos, head of Alco pollsters.
“... a large proportion of the people who voted for it in the past have now chosen a series of parties ranging from New Democracy to Hellenic Solution and Syriza,” said Panagopoulos.
“Golden Dawn was born from the rage that people felt. This rage no longer exists. The people who were very angry in 2012 or in 2015, feel uncertain rather than angry now and see no reason to vote for it.”
Reporting by Renee Maltezou; Editing by Gareth Jones