Party leaders largely set aside economic issues on Friday as they continued campaigning for the June 17 elections and focused on crime, immigration and the rise of the neo-Nazi Chrysi Avgi (Golden Dawn) party, whose spokesman remained at large after punching a fellow parliamentary candidate on live TV on Thursday.
New Democracy leader Antonis Samaras sought to capitalize on the furor created this week as a result of the behavior of Golden Dawn candidate Ilias Kasidiaris and the fatal shooting of a robber on the outskirts of Athens.
Conservative party sources said ND sees the current situation as an opportunity to appeal to concerned households and to limit the number of traditional ND supporters that will vote for parties further to the right.
Samaras visited the Athens neighborhood of Aghios Panteleimonas, where Golden Dawn has strengthened its presence over the past few years, to speak to residents. “We will find the Athens we knew, again,” he said. “We will have the neighborhoods we had, again. The invasion of illegals [immigrants] will end but not with vigilantism and extremism. It will happen legally and with the support of Europe.”
The ND leader then visited police headquarters in a show of support for the force. He also went to the headquarters of the riot police.
The conservatives also attacked SYRIZA over its plans to give travel documents to migrants seeking to leave Greece. ND spokesman Yiannis Michelakis said this would lead to Greece being thrown out of the Schengen area, which allows free movement of people. “SYRIZA and its leader are promising to make the country a magnet for illegal immigrants,” he said.
SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras said that his party would “not tolerate anything that threatens the safety of ordinary citizens.” He also pledged to reintroduce the concept of a neighborhood policeman. “The policeman’s place is in neighborhoods and on the streets,” he said. “It is not in the corridors of power or in Parliament.”
The police, meanwhile, rejected claims that they were not making proper efforts to track down Golden Dawn spokesman Kasidiaris. Statistics indicated that as many as one in two policemen voted for the far-right party on May 6, but police spokesman Thanasis Kokalakis denied that officers’ political leanings had any influence on the force’s work. “We are checking all the known spots where this individual is likely to be,” he said.