It appeared on Wednesday that the fate of a contentious anti-racism bill will have to be determined by the leaders of the three parties in the fragile coalition after the government’s general secretary, Panayiotis Baltakos, refuted reports that the bill had gained approval in principle by a parliamentary committee.
According to Baltakos the bill has not been approved and it remains unclear whether it will be put to a vote at all.
The legislation, which aims to impose tougher penalties on racial hatred and is also an attempt by the government to curb the growing influence of the ultra-right Golden Dawn, has provoked a widening rift in the fragile coalition with the junior partners, PASOK and Democratic Left, pushing for its immediate submission to Parliament while New Democracy wants it to undergo changes.
PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos on Wednesday reacted to Baltakos’s intervention, insisting that the bill be promoted as “an essential measure for the protection of democratic rule of law” and that “any outstanding issues be tackled by the party leaders.” Democratic Left called on Baltakos to “leave the procedural tricks and immediately submit the bill.” Meanwhile, ND sources repeated that the bill is redundant as most of its provisions are enshrined in existing laws.
The bill has provoked the opposition of some Church figures, with Bishop Amvrosios of Kalavryta ordering that all churches in Aigialeia, in the northern Peloponnese, ring a death knell in protest at the legislation.