Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, whose New Democracy Conservatives face a twin elections test on May 25, stepped up his verbal assaults on the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party and railed against its supporters.
New Democracy is being pressed hard by the major opposition Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) in the second round balloting for Greek municipalities and regions, and in the elections for the European Parliament.
Speaking from Maleme, near Hania, on a visit timed to coincide with the anniversary of the Battle of Crete, Samaras condemned “Nazi sympathizers,” without elaborating, although Greek media had reported that some in SYRIZA thought the party could attract voters from the extremists.
“Blood, sacrifices and our memory of history are violently insulted by those who today bear the symbols of Nazism,” he said, adding that “they remind us the struggle for democracy and freedom never stops.”
He didn’t mention that his government allowed Golden Dawn to run rampant after it won 18 seats in the 2012 elections as critics said the Conservatives were eager to mollycoddle the extremists voters in an attempt to woo them.
There were exchanges between the parties after a SYRIZA municipal council hopeful, Christos Goudis, suggested the Leftists should talk to the neo-Nazis about working together against New Democracy, apparently fueling Samaras’ fury.
SYRIZA candidate Gavriil Sakellaridis is in a close race against incumbent Athens Mayor George Kaminis, who is being backed by New Democracy and its coalition partner, the fast-fading PASOK Socialists.
PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos, who is Samaras’ Deputy Premier/Foreign Minister, lashed out angrily against SYRIZA, his long-time nemesis, and said its policy was a “populist, nationalist mismash.”
With PASOK tying itself to a new center-left alliance called Elia, or Olive Tree after the Socialists fell to 3-5 percent in polls, he appealed to those who’d left the party for SYRIZA to come back in a desperate bid to keep the once-dominant political power from disappearing.
He was heckled at a rally by a group of people who’d lost much of their holdings in Greek bonds when Venizelos, as finance minister in a previous PASOK administration, stiffed investors with 74 percent losses.
He said they were “disruptive,” although some had nearly been wiped out, and police detained four of them for jeering him.
More rallies were to be held on May 22 as the critical elections loomed and the parties stepped up their campaign strategies to woo voters, nearly 40 percent of whom stayed away in the first round.