SYRIZA opts for own racism bill, prompting PASOK, DIMAR anger

The main leftist opposition SYRIZA has decided not to back PASOK and Democratic Left (DIMAR) over the anti-racism bill they want to bring to Parliament, thereby widening the political fallout from the legislation, which seeks to introduce tougher penalties for racially motivated crimes.

PASOK and DIMAR have fallen out with coalition partner New Democracy over the bill, with conservative Premier Antonis Samaras refusing to back the legislation drawn up by Justice Minister Antonis Roupakiotis, a Democratic Left candidate. The two smaller coalition partners decided earlier this week that they would submit the bill to Parliament on their own but any hope of achieving a broader consensus on the draft law, although not enough for it to be passed by the House, was blown away on Wednesday when SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras said his party would put forward its own proposal.

SYRIZA’s stance prompted angry responses from DIMAR and PASOK, which accused the leftists of doing New Democracy a favor by undermining the opportunity for consensus.

“Just so he can maintain meaningless polarization, Mr Tsipras becomes a lackey of New Democracy and Mr Samaras,” said PASOK spokeswoman Fofi Gennimata.

“I call on Mr Tsipras to stop these tricks and to vote for the bill in question,” said DIMAR leader Fotis Kouvelis.

With the junior coalition partners due to the submit their bill on Thursday and SYRIZA planning to submit its proposal on Monday, New Democracy is reportedly drafting its own provisions to “fill in the gaps” of the existing legislative framework. According to sources, ND’s proposal will essentially comprise one provision, foreseeing the criminalization of all Nazi crimes, including the massacres at the villages of Kalavryta and Distomo. The amendment would also criminalize the denial of Nazi crimes, in accordance with a pledge Samaras reportedly made during talks with members of the World Jewish Congress (WJC) in Thessaloniki in March.

On Wednesday, WJC President Ronald Lauder expressed disappointment at the failure of the three parties in Greece’s coalition government to adopt an anti-racism law. “Hatemongers and extremists such as the leaders of Golden Dawn are not only a threat to minorities such as the Jews; they are a threat to democracy as a whole,” he said.