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Greece: Extreme right party seeks recount after poll flop

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In this Saturday, Feb. 2, 2019 file photo, supporters of Greece’s extreme right Golden Dawn raise torches during a rally commemorating a 1996 military incident which cost the lives of three Greek navy officers and brought Greece and Turkey to the brink of war, in Athens. Golden Dawn, the far-right, anti-immigrant party that had shocked Greek politics by evolving from a marginal, violent neo-Nazi group into Greece’s third-largest party during the country’s economic crisis, was knocked out of Parliament in national election Sunday July 7, 2019. (AP Photo/Yorgos Karahalis)

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Greece’s far-right Golden Dawn party said Monday it is planning to challenge a general election result that saw it fail to get enough for support to be represented in Parliament, a big reversal for a party that had risen to third place at the height of the country’s financial crisis earlier this decade.

In a statement Monday, the party, which has had links to the neo-Nazi movement, said it would formally request a nationwide ballot recount to challenge what it described as a “scandalous result. “

Golden Dawn won 2.93% of the vote, just under the 3 percent threshold needed to be represented in Parliament, according to final results published Monday.

The party had 18 lawmakers in the outgoing 300-member Parliament, having won 6.99% of the vote in the last national election, in September 2015.

“We are sending a message to our enemies and so-called friends: Golden Dawn is not finished. The fight for nationalism continues,” Golden Dawn leader Nikos Michaloliakos said. “We will return where we became strong: On the streets and squares, in a tough struggle against Bolshevism and the coming savage capitalism,”

He attacked both former left-wing prime minister Alexis Tsipras, and his conservative successor Kyriakos Mitsotakis. Michaloliakos ended his speech with his customary “Hail victory!” — a direct reference to the Nazis’ “Sieg heil” salutation.

Founded in 1985, Golden Dawn was known for years as a collection of violent youths who adopted a paramilitary organization which was blamed for street attacks on political opponents. It then became a vociferous critic of migrants when Greece became a destination for many fleeing conflict and poverty notably from Syria.

For years, Golden Dawn was barely a political force. As recently as the October 2009 election, it registered just 0.29% support. But as Greece’s economic crisis grew more acute a year later, the party began to make a breakthrough, winning its first elected officials in municipal elections and scoring best in neighborhoods with a heavy migrant presence.

It won its first seats in Parliament in 2012, and in four successive national elections held from 2012 to 2015 it got around 7% of the vote. Its high point came in the 2014 European elections, when it polled 9.39% to become Greece’s third-largest party — a position it retained national elections held in January and September 2015.

Golden Dawn’s weakening became apparent in May’s European election, when it got only 4.87% and slipped into fifth place among Greece’s parties. A new party on the far right, Greek Solution, which is less extreme and apparently less menacing, may have siphoned away support. It is projected to have 10 seats in the new Parliament.

Golden Dawn also faces potential legal problems. The party’s leadership is currently on trial on charges of running a criminal organization following a crackdown on the party launched after the 2013 fatal stabbing of an activist rap musician and the arrest of a party volunteer on murder changes.

Still, most commentators doubt Golden Dawn will shrink back to its previous marginal status. In the European elections, the party’s share of the vote among 17- to 24-year-olds was about 13%.

Some recent statements by prominent party member Ilias Kasidiaris, until recently also a lawmaker and a candidate for mayor of Athens in May, indicate that Golden Dawn may seek to rebrand itself as a less extreme organization, aligned with European euroskeptic or alt-right forces.

He has expressed admiration for Italy’s anti-immigrant deputy premier, Mateo Salvini, and spoken favorably of the largely euroskeptic Eastern European “Visegrad countries” — Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia.

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Derek Gatopoulos in Athens contributed.

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Full coverage at https://www.apnews.com/Greece

Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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