Authoritarian Populism Index.

The Authoritarian Populism Index is developed by Timbro.

Timbro is the leading free market think tank in the Nordic countries. Our mission is to promote and disseminate ideas supporting the principles of free markets, free enterprise, individual liberty and a free society. Timbro was founded in 1978 by Sture Eskilsson and the Swedish Employers’ Association, a precursor to the Confederation of Swedish Enterprise.  Since 2003, Timbro is financed by the Swedish Free Enterprise Foundation.


International outreach and translation supported by Friedrich Naumann Foundation and Atlas Network.


Populism Rank: 4


Voter support for radical left in last elections (2023): -9.3%.
Voter support for radical right in last elections (2023): +6.2%.
Populist or authoritarian parties in government (February 2024): none
Number of authoritarian or populist MEP:s (2019): 11/21

01 Speakers

Post-war Greece initially had a very volatile political landscape, characterised by numerous broad coalitions lacking a clear ideological foundation. Gradually, a conservative, a centrist and a leftist party consolidated their positions. While the Socialist party also included factions of communists, radical right ideas were featured in the conservative and centrist parties. Nationalism has been mainstream in Greece.

The Communist Party of Greece (KKE) is the oldest party in the country, dating back to 1918. It was banned in the 1930s, and not legalised again until after the fall of the military junta in the late 1970s. During the 1950s and 1960s, the United Democratic Left attracted many communist voters, even though the party never openly supported communism and also attracted many non-communist supporters.

While still illegal, the KKE suffered a split in 1968 when critics of the Soviet invasion in Czechoslovakia formed the KKE (interior), criticising the KKE for being ruled by the “exterior”, i.e. the Soviet Union. They nevertheless competed together in the first election after the fall of the junta in 1974. KKE (interior) split in the 1980s, and one of the factions reunited with the KKE to form the electoral coalition Synaspismos for the 1989 election. This alliance then entered a short-lived governing coalition with the conservative New Democracy, this being the only time that the KKE has been part of the Greek government. The KKE remains fairly popular in the 21st century, despite its loyalty to the old ideas of marxism-leninism and a communist revolution. In addition to being far to the left on economic issues, the KKE is against the Greek membership in Nato and EU, and takes conservative positions on social issues.

KKE Rally.

Synaspismos was one of several factions who joined to form Syriza (Coalition of the Radical Left) in 2004. The party had modest success in its early years. It was the Greek financial crisis which turned Syriza into the major left wing party in Greece, capitalising on the dissatisfaction with the austerity deal that the government (a grand coalition of Pasok and New Democracy) reached with the so called troika (EU, ECB, IMF).


Syriza won snap elections held in January 2015, and party leader Aleksis Tsipras became prime minister, with Yanou Varoutakis taking the position of finance minister. Trying to deliver on their promise to the voters to renegotiate the loan agreement, they travelled to European capitals, in a failed attempt to persuade the leaders of other countries to accept their opposition to austerity policy. The refusal of the Syriza government to implement the troikas proposed reform of pensions and the labour market led to a stalemate. In June 2015, Tsipras asked for an extension of the deadline for the loan payment, having called a referendum on the terms of the bailout. The troika refused to extend the deadline, but after Tsipras got the result he wanted in the referendum, new negotiations started and Greece under Syriza’s leadership accepted most of the demands of the creditors. This led to splits within Syriza, Tsipras being accused of betraying the radicalism of the movement. After losing many MP:s, Tsipras called a new snap election in August 2015. Surprisingly, the voters returned Syriza and its coalition partner ANEL to government with basically the same support as in the previous election. This government then went on to rule Greece until 2019.


Syriza has been described as an emblematic case of European left wing populism in the 2000s. According to political scientist Cas Mudde, Syriza constitutes a “rejuvenated form” of Greek left populism, characterised by overpromises on which they seldom deliver. By opponents and also some experts, Syriza has been accused of authoritarian ideals and methods, some arguing that they tried to push through similar reforms as national populist leaders in Hungary and Poland. 


These accusations have been exemplified by a proposed electoral reform, interference in the actions of government agencies and their media policy. In 2016, the Syriza government wanted to regulate the media market and limit the number of licences issued, which would mean that half of Greece’s eight TV channels would have to shut down. The government argued that reform of the licensing system was necessary to reduce corruption in the media industry and increase the revenue to the treasury. The idea was that the TV broadcasting licences would be auctioned with a starting price of 3 million euros, but a number of TV channels appealed the decision to the Supreme Court, arguing that the auction violated the constitution because the auction was run by the government instead of the independent State Media Council

Both New Democracy and Pasok claimed that the auction was an attempt to gain “absolute control” over the media and that Syriza showed a lack of respect for democracy and freedom of expression. Greece’s Supreme Court invalidated the auction in October 2016. However, Syriza, and especially the minister Nikos Pappas who was responsible for the auction, were unrelenting in their ambitions to reform the Greek media industry: “Legal decisions do not make governments, only the people do,” said Pappas.

Former Syriza leader Alexis Tsipras.

The years in government had a moderating effect on Syriza, which softened its euroscepticism and anti-elite rhetoric. This led to several splits from the party, and, eventually, weakening results in the polls. In 2020, party leader Stefanos Kasselakis, was accused by a large group of defectors of diverting Syriza from its left-wing course. Late in 2023, Pasok once again overtook the position as the largest left wing party in the country.


Several other populist left movements have appeared in recent years. Popular Unity – Unsubordinated Left (LAE) was formed in 2015 and wants Greece to leave EU and Nato, as well as upholding a strong anti-elitist rhetoric. 


Zoe Konstantopolou, former speaker of parliament, distanced herself from the austerity policy and formed Course of Freedom (PE) in 2016, a left wing nationalist and populist party, which opposes neo-liberalism and globalism as well as North Macedonia’s right to use the name Macedonia.


MeRa25 was formed in 2018 by Yanis Varoufakis, formerly finance minister in Syriza’s government. It is part of an anti-capitalist Europe-wide movement for radical leftist ideas, and has been described as populist and reactionary. It entered parliament in 2019 but was voted out in 2023. 

Following the fall of the military junta in 1974, far right-parties had a hard time for several decades. In 1984, former Junta leader Georgios Papadopoulos formed a far right party, The National Political Union. It never had any success in Greek elections, although it managed to win a seat in the European Parliament in 1984.

Georgios Papadopoulos.

The first radical right party to achieve some success was Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS). In the early 2000s, they gained momentum for a national conservative and more populist alternative to the right of New Democracy, from which LAOS was a splinter party. Between 2011-12, in the early days of the Greek financial crisis, LAOS was part of the national unity government. After this, the party quickly lost support.


In the 1970s, a young man active in right-wing extremist circles was convicted of assault. In prison, Nikolaos Michaloliakos met representatives of the junta that had been overthrown in 1974. Once released, Michaloliakos founded the newspaper Chrysi Avgi (Golden Dawn) in 1980. The newspaper was discontinued four years later and Michaoliakos instead became a member of the far-right National Political Union. After being the leader of the youth union, he broke away and formed the People’s National Movement – Golden Dawn. In connection with the nationwide protests in Greece against Macedonian independence, new far-right activists were attracted to Golden Dawn, which in 1993 was also registered as a political party. In their very first election – to the EU Parliament in 1994 – they gained 7,000 votes. At this time, the party consisted of various groups of right-wing extremists, several of whom went as volunteers to fight for Republika Srpska in the Bosnian civil war. In the 1996 parliamentary elections, it gathered 4,000 votes and remained a peripheral political force, although it gained media attention through its members’ violent crimes against immigrants and repeated confrontations with anarchist and left-wing extremist groups. In 1999, two Albanians were murdered in central Athens by a party member provoked by the burning of the Greek flag during a football match between Greece and Albania.


In the early 2000s, the party formally ceased to exist. After a failed collaboration with another far-right party – the Patriotic Alliance – Golden Dawn was resurrected in 2007. The first major successes as a party came in the local elections in 2010 when it won five percent in Athens, which gave it a mandate in the municipal parliament.

Ilias Kassidiaris fighting on tv.

National success then followed in 2012 with seven percent and 21 mandates. Part of the success was due to XA prioritising social and economic issues: opposition to welfare cuts, benefits for the unemployed. The party’s activists also showed a strong presence in poor neighbourhoods, handling out food to the poor.


In 2012, Golden Dawn MP Ilias Kassidiaris threw a glass of water at a female opponent in a live TV debate, after which he dealt several blows to the head of another. The TV broadcast was quickly interrupted, but the images quickly spread on social media around the world and became a perfect illustration of how close violence was to the Greek fascists. Kassidiaris has also denied the Holocaust.


Golden Dawn is without reservation an extremist far right party with a fascist ideology. It benefited from the financial crisis and was reelected in 2015 but support began to drop in the late 2010s and they are no longer represented in parliament. Its place has to some extent been filled by two other far-right parties. Spartans is a neo-fascist and ultra-nationalist party that was formed in 2016 and entered parliament for the first time in 2023. Victory was formed in 2019 and is equally nationalist, but also with strong focus on ultra-conservative views on social issues.


Independent Greeks (ANEL) is yet another nationalist party, although without fascist roots. It was formed as a splinter from New Democracy in 2012. It became a minor coalition party to Syriza in the 2015 government, both parties finding common ground in opposition to the EU:s bailout program, austerity policy and foreign interference in Greek domestic policy. The nationalism of ANEL became apparent when party leader Panos Kammenos resigned from the post of defense minister in 2018, due to his opposition to the Prespa Agreement between Greece and North Macedonia, resolving the name conflict which has severed relations between the two countries ever since North Macedonia’s independence from Yugoslavia in 1993.


Greek Solution (EL) made some gains in the 2019 and 2022 elections, winning three and four percent, respectively. It was formed in 2016 by former MP:s of LAOS, and is considered a far right party with strong focus on ethnic Greek nationalism.

EP elections

Number of authoritarian or populist MEP:s (2019): 11/21


KKE has been represented in the EP since Greece joined in 1981. It was initially part of the Communist/GUE group until 2014, when it left, citing GUE’s departure from radical ideas. KKE-E also had representation in the EP during the 1980s.


LAOS secured one seat in 2004 and two in 2009, joining the EFD group.


Syriza gained its first MEP in 2009 and joined the GUE group alongside KKE. In 2014, Syriza became the largest party in the EP election, winning six seats. At the same time, Golden Dawn secured three seats. However, no other party was willing to cooperate with Golden Dawn, and its MEPs remained non-inscrits throughout the term.


In the current parliament, Greece has a majority of MEPs from far-left or far-right parties. Syriza holds 6 seats, all affiliated with the GUE group. KKE and Golden Dawn each have 2 seats, all functioning independently of organized groups. Additionally, EL secured one seat, also as a non-inscrit.

KKE summary

Economics: LEFT
Social issues: CONSERVATIVE
Democratic credibility: LOW

Syriza summary

Economics: LEFT
Social issues: PROGRESSIVE
Democratic credibility: MEDIUM

EL summary

Economics: RIGHT
Social issues: CONSERVATIVE
Democratic credibility: MEDIUM