Opponents of the racism bill argue it could violate constitutional rights to free speech and free assembly. Meanwhile leftwing parties claim Samaras’ conservatives fear antagonizing the far right as the country recovers from its crippling financial crisis.
Late Wednesday, several thousand Golden Dawn supporters attended a rally in central Athens. Holding Greek flags and fire torches, the crowd chanted: “Foreigners out of Greece.”
Campaigning aggressively against immigration and Greece’s bailout agreement, Golden Dawn has reaped a surge in support in recent years. The party elected 18 members to the 300-member parliament in last year’s general election with nearly 7 percent of the vote.
An opinion poll for private Mega television published this week suggested support for the extreme right party has risen to 10 percent.
The GPO survey of 1,200 adults, conducted May 24-27, found two-thirds regarded Golden Dawn as a threat to democracy, and half supported the anti-racism law. Fewer than 40 percent of those who voted for Samaras’ center-right New Democracy in the last election back the proposed legislation.
“There is no doubt that this law is targeting Golden Dawn,” Golden Dawn leader Nikolaos Michaloliakos told his party’s lawmakers ahead of Wednesday’s rally.
“Let them bring the law to parliament and we will see, finally, who is with Greece and who is on the side of the illegal immigrants.”
Golden Dawn denies any involvement in attacks against immigrants, though party supporters have been arrested as suspects in several recent incidents.