Greece's Golden Dawn leader Nikolaos Mihaloliakos 370.
(photo credit: REUTERS/Yannis Behrakis)
ATHENS - Greece's extreme-right Golden Dawn party savored unprecedented success in Sunday's general election by promising to rid Greece of illegal immigrants, branding journalists "liars" and warning all "traitors" to run scared.
Little more than an obscure fringe group barely a year ago, the party is set to blow past estimates and enter parliament for the first time with as much as 8 percent of the vote.
That would make the group - which denies it is neo-Nazi - one of the biggest winners in an election where the main conservative and Socialist parties are taking a drubbing over their support for a bailout tied to austerity measures.
Flanked by burly, muscular men in tight black t-shirts, Golden Dawn leader Nikolaos Mihaloliakos marched down the street in Athens yelling "liars" and "You must be ashamed for all your lies!" at foreign journalists following him.
"Greece is only the beginning," he shouted at them. When asked what that meant, he said: "You know very well," wagging a finger at the television camera.
As they strode to the hotel, his supporters began chanting "Greece belongs to Greeks" and "Foreigners get out of Greece."
When asked what his first action in parliament would be, Mihaloliakos said: "All the illegal immigration out! Out of my country, out of my home!"
Asked how he planned to carry that out, he angrily said: "Use your imagination."
As he entered the news conference, party members ordered assembled journalists to stand to attention. His party's flag - featuring an ancient Greek symbol resembling the Nazi swastika set against a red background - hung in the background.
"I'll say one thing: 'Veni, Vidi, Vici'," Mihaloliakos said from the podium, surrounded by his bodyguards sitting motionless with their arms crossed.
"You defamed me, you shut my mouth - I won."'For all the brave boys'
With 63 percent of the vote counted, Golden Dawn had nabbed a 6.9 percent share, potentially giving it 21 deputies in parliament, making it the first time such a party would be in parliament since the fall of a military dictatorship in 1974.
In the last election, it took just 0.23 percent of the vote.
Pledging to "clean up" Greece by expelling all legal and illegal immigrants, the party has won voters worried about rising crime levels at a time of deep recession.
The group has also developed a benevolent image in some Athens' neighborhoods by dropping off food to needy families and escorting elderly residents to bank ATMs.
"We will continue our struggle for a free Greece, free from foreign loan sharks and a Greece that is independent and proud, without the slavery of the bailout," said Mihaloliakos, who was elected to the Athens city council in 2010.
He promptly gave the Nazi salute on his first appearance there.
"We will struggle for a Greece that is not a social jungle because of the millions of immigrants they brought here without asking us," he said.
The group - which openly displays books on Aryan supremacy at its party offices - has been frequently linked to racist attacks, but denies beating up migrants.
"This victory is devoted to all the brave boys with the black T-shirts and the white letters reading Golden Dawn," Mihaloliakos said. "Those who betrayed the motherland - you should be scared now."