An anti-racism bill aimed at reining in the ultra-right Golden Dawn party by imposing tougher penalties on the incitement of racist violence appeared to have caused a major rift within the government on Thursday.
Shortly after Justice Ministry sources indicated that the bill had been submitted in Parliament for debate, the government’s general secretary, Panayiotis Baltakos, refuted those reports, saying that the legislation would be examined by his office “to check for legal or other imperfections” before it is submitted to the House.
In an apparent bid to gloss over any suggestions of an internal rift in the government, the ministry issued another statement immediately after that by Baltakos, noting that the “outline” of the bill had been sent to the latter’s office “as procedure demands” and that a version would be uploaded onto the Internet for public discussion before being submitted to the State Audit Council and then Parliament.
Aides close to Prime Minister Antonis Samaras continued to express serious reservations about the content of the bill as it stands, fearing that it could fuel reactions from across the political spectrum and from the Orthodox Church and could end up boosting Golden Dawn by making the party appear to be persecuted rather rather than reining it in. In its current form, the bill foresees tougher penalties for those who “incite or provoke violence or hatred against an individual or group of individuals” and fines of up 200,000 euros for media companies deemed to have incited hatred or violence.
A smaller rift emerged within the government over a legislative amendment relating to licenses for street market vendors, with socialist PASOK voting against the reform.