ATHENS, Greece – An extreme right party that campaigned to rid Greece of illegal immigrants largely held its bloc of seats in parliamentary elections Sunday, retaining support after a party official slapped a female politician and threw a glass of water on another on live television during the campaign.
Official projections showed the Golden Dawn party returning to the 300-member parliament with 18 seats, just three fewer than it had won in an inconclusive election on May 6, when no party won enough votes to form a government amid a deep financial crisis that threatens Greece's place in the Eurozone and could hurt the global economy.
The conservative New Democracy party came first and could gather enough support to form a coalition as it seeks to soften the tough terms of an international bailout deal that is keeping Greek finances afloat. While New Democracy will not court Golden Dawn in any power-sharing arrangement, the entry of the far-right party into parliament this year for the first time is seen by many Greeks as a symptom of the alienation and hardship that their society is experiencing.
"I would like to thank the hundreds of thousands of Greeks who did not change their vote, despite the effort of wretched propaganda by the paid stooges on TV," said Golden Dawn leader Nikolaos Michaloliakos, whose party capitalized on a wave of anger over how mainstream politicians have handled Greece's economic woes. "We will continue the fight for a Greece that belongs to Greeks."
In the northern city of Thessaloniki, Golden Dawn supporters celebrated outside their party headquarters by setting off flares and small fireworks.
Earlier this month, Ilias Kasidiaris, the 31-year-old spokesman for Golden Dawn, accosted two politicians from leftist parties on live TV and defied an arrest warrant that was later issued against him. He also sued the politicians, accusing them of unprovoked insults.
Golden Dawn, which vehemently denies a neo-Nazi label, has been accused of violent attacks against immigrants in Athens, and its members have also allegedly been involved in clashes with left-wing and anarchist groups. The party insists it is a nationalist patriotic group.
It opposes the international bailout deal for Greece, and advocates cleaning up crime-ridden neighborhoods and mining Greece's borders to stop illegal immigration.