An anti-racism bill aimed at the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party by imposing tougher penalties for assaults has caused a rift in the coalition government led by Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, the New Democracy Conservative party leader, and his partners, the PASOK Socialists and tiny Democratic Left (DIMAR).
Shortly after Justice Ministry sources told the newspaper Kathimerini that that the bill had been submitted to Parliament for debate, the government’s General Secretary, Panayiotis Baltakos, said it wasn’t so and that the bill would be examined by his office “to check for legal or other imperfections” first.
In an apparent bid to smooth over any suggestions of an internal rift in the government, the ministry issued another statement immediately after that by Baltakos, noting that the “outline” of the bill had been sent to the latter’s office “as procedure demands” and that a version would be uploaded onto the Internet for public discussion before being submitted to the State Audit Council and then Parliament.
Aides close to Samaras maintained reservations about the content of the bill, reportedly fearing that it could fuel reactions from across the political spectrum and from the Orthodox Church and could end up boosting Golden Dawn by making the party appear to be persecuted rather rather than reining it in.
The bill foresees tougher penalties for those who “incite or provoke violence or hatred against an individual or group of individuals” and fines of up 200,000 euros for media companies deemed to have incited hatred or violence. Golden Dawn, which wants all foreigners out of the country, has been accused of assaulting immigrants, which it denies.