By Will Vassilopoulos
ATHENS — Greek neo-Nazi party Golden Dawn warned rivals and reformers Sunday that “the time for fear has come” after exit polls showed them securing their entry in parliament for the first time in nearly 40 years.
“The time for fear has come for those who betrayed this homeland,” Golden Dawn leader Nikos Michaloliakos told a news conference at an Athens hotel, flanked by menacing shaven-headed young men.
“We are coming,” the 55-year-old said as supporters threw firecrackers outside.
According to updated exit polls, the once-marginal party will end up winning over six percent of the vote and sending 19 deputies to the 300-seat parliament on a wave of immigration and crime fears, as well as anti-austerity anger.
Exulting in the apparent breakthrough, Michaloliakos quoted Julius Caesar: “Veni, Vidi, Vici” — I came, I saw, I conquered.
Michaloliakos said his party would fight against “world usurers” and the “slavery” of an EU-IMF loan agreement which he likened to a “dictatorship”.
“Greece is only the beginning,” he shouted at reporters as he walked to the news conference, accusing foreign media of spreading lies about his movement.
At the last general election in 2009, the virulently anti-immigrant group had scored just 0.29 percent.
Once part of the country’s political fringe, the Hryssi Avgi (Golden Dawn) had already made headlines in 2010 by electing Michaloliakos, 55, to Athens’ city council on a wave of anti-immigration tension in the capital’s poorer districts.
Shortly after being elected to the council thanks to more than 10,000 votes in the Greek capital, Michaloliakos made waves by giving two fascist salutes captured by a television camera.
A mathematician, Michaloliakos has said Greece could survive “very nicely” without the EU-IMF recovery deal.
“Certainly we should break the agreement,” he told the Athens News English-language weekly last month.
“After that, we will survive very nicely. Greece is a rich country,” he said, adding that the country would not necessarily have to return to the drachma.
On his agenda, Michaloliakos said his focus would be on “national issues, social issues, the problem of illegal immigration, attribution of responsibility for all scandals.”
All illegal migrants “should leave our country,” he said.
Golden Dawn has strengthened on the back of the country’s deep economic crisis — it has been bailed out twice — with unemployment at 20 percent and poverty rising.
It has portrayed immigrants as stealing Greeks’ jobs and as being responsible for a wave of crime, as the country is the first point of entry for many illegal migrants into the European Union.
The mainstream parties on the right, including New Democracy of the country’s likely next prime minister Antonis Samaras, have been forced to boost their own anti-migration rhetoric to keep up.
The outgoing coalition government planned a network of detention camps around the country to hold migrants earmarked for repatriation, and its socialist predecessors began building a wire fence on the Greek-Turkish border as a deterrent.
With Greece the main entry-point for illegal migrants into Europe, thousands of migrants unable to cross to other EU states due to legal constraints have created urban ghettos in Athens, Patras and other cities.
Hostility from local residents has spiked in recent months with the deterioration of an economic crisis that has brought recession and hundreds of thousands of job losses in Greece.
Copyright © 2012 AFP. All rights reserved.
Photo of Greek neo-Nazi leader Nikolaos Michaloliakos via AFP, Louisa Gouliamaki