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Nationalistic sentiments rising in Greece

April 13, 2012 at 7:01 PM   |   Comments

ATHENS, Greece, April 13 (UPI) -- Anti-immigration sentiments are becoming more mainstream in Greece as fringe groups broaden their bases, experts say.

In hopes of winning some political offices during the national elections in Greece on May 6, members of Golden Dawn, a Greek ultra-nationalist group, are taking advantage of fears of a rise in illegal immigration and the poor economy, The New York Times reported Thursday.

"This is our party's program, for a clean Greece, only for Greeks, a safe Greece," Ilias Panagiotaros, the group's spokesman and a candidate for office, said while campaigning.

Experts say even if Golden Dawn members don't take office, they have already had an impact on the broader political debate, as the two main parties in Greece -- the Socialist Party and the center-right New Democracy Party -- have begun integrating nationalism sentiments into their campaigns.

"Greek society at this point is a laboratory of extreme-right-wing evolution," said Nicos Demertzis, a political scientist at the University of Athens. "We are going through an unprecedented financial crisis; we are a fragmented society without strong civil associations" and with "generalized corruption in all the administration levels."

The Socialists, who were in charge when the country's economy took its down turn, have lost popularity and have been using anti-immigration sentiments to garner some support. Earlier this month, Greece's public order minister, Michalis Chrisochoidis, said Greece would set up detention centers for illegal immigrants.

Nationalistic views, however, are not shared by all party members.

Evangelos Venizelos, who is running in the national elections as Socialist Party leader, warned that "Parliament cannot become a place for those nostalgic for fascism and Nazism."

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