Coalition chiefs to tackle anti-racism bill on Monday

With divisions widening in the coalition over the fate of a controversial anti-racism bill, sources close to Prime Minister Antonis Samaras said the issue will be discussed on Monday at 6 p.m. between the premier and his coalition partners, PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos and Fotis Kouvelis of Democratic Left.

The premier’s hand appears to have been forced by his coalition partners who raised strong objections following a meeting of conservative New Democracy officials who agreed that the bill is redundant as most of its provisions already exist. ND officials had expressed concerns that the bill could impinge on freedom of expression.

Conversely, PASOK and Democratic Left are keen to push the bill, which aims to impose tougher penalties on racial hatred and to curb the growing influence of the ultra-right Golden Dawn, into law. In a dig at ND, PASOK remarked that “no one has the right to influence Parliament with leaks,” referring to reports that ND officials had decided that the bill could be shelved or at least amended.

Sources at Democratic Left condemned the conservatives for yielding to protests against the bill by some Church officials and of fearing to take on Golden Dawn.

The leftist opposition SYRIZA slammed rival ND as being “hostage to far-right elements within its ranks” and called on the junior coalition partners to support the bill and not “confirm that they are beholden to Samaras and his far-right advisers.”