An anti-racism bill stalled four months ago in an apparent political power play has been brought back by the government and seeks to stiffen penalties for crimes concerning hate, discrimination and violence.
The package was initially seen as yet another attempt to rein in the ultra-far right Golden Dawn party which has been blamed for a series of assaults on immigrants, which it has denied.
In September, 2013, the government went on a crackdown against the extremists following the murder of an anti-fascist hip-hop artist for which a member of the party was arrested.
Until then, Prime Minister Antonis Samaras had been accused by critics of mollycoddling the extremists in a bid to gain votes from its less-zealous fringe constituency that had fled his New Democracy Conservatives after he continued to impose harsh austerity measures ordered by international lenders.
The draft legislation is set to be reintroduced to Parliament on April 10. It was first put before the Parliamentary Committee for Public Administration, Public Order and Justice on November 20, 2013 but was withdrawn on December 3 before MPs managed to start a second reading of the legislation.
Opposition parties, as well as coalition partner PASOK, blamed former cabinet secretary Panayiotis Baltakos for the bill being snatched from Parliament so that New Democracy could curry favor with Golden Dawn voters.
Baltakos was forced to resign last week over a secretly filmed video of him meeting with Golden Dawn spokesman Ilias Kasidiaris.
Over the past few days Democratic Left and PASOK called for the legislation to be brought back to Parliament so it could be passed at committee level and then be put to the plenary.
The decision to reintroduce the anti-racism bill is also seen as an attempt by New Democracy to heal its differences with PASOK in the wake of Baltakos’s departure.
It is believed the move came after a conversation between Samaras and Deputy Premier Evangelos Venizelos, the PASOK leader.