Before the blood was even dry in the offices of Charlie Hebdo, the Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras sought to use the unspeakable murders of French journalists to ramp up his hard right rhetoric and lash out at the opposition party SYRIZA, accusing them of being too soft on immigration policy.
“SYRIZA is somewhere else, it wants to give mass citizenship insurance and social security to illegal immigrants. You see what is happening today in Europe, everything is changing in a dramatic way. In France the socialist Hollande brought the military out in the streets. Today in Paris there was a slaughter and here some people are inviting more illegal immigrants and giving out citizenship,” Samaras said speaking yesterday in Evia.
The comments have been widely criticized on social media with many expressing disbelief that the Prime Minister and leader of a supposedly center-right party could deploy the sort of rhetoric usually linked to hard right demagogues such as France’s anti-EU Marie Le Pen.
From the outset of the pre-election period, Antonis Samaras has sought to burnish his right wing credentials. As TheTOC has previously reported, a central plank of the Prime Minister’s pre-election strategy is to appeal to the pool of one million or so voters that are perceived to be to the right of New Democracy. These include the roughly 9% of voters who voted for the neo-fascist Golden Dawn party in the previous elections.
It is a curious election strategy for a party that is effectively seeking to convince Greek voters that it is the voice of responsibility even as it panders to the more extreme and xenophobic elements in Greek society.
The Prime Minister was earlier on a campaign tour in the north of Greece where he has praised the border fence on the Evros River for stemming the tide of illegal immigration. He said that the fence should stay up permanently and accused SYRIZA of seeking to throw open Greece’s doors and offer citizenship to all comers.
The Prime Minister’s comments regarding the Charlie Hebdo slaughter were part of his wider push to use Greek’s fears of immigration as a wedge issue to drive up his party’s support.
That push may garner him additional voters from the hard right. But it also risks leaving Samaras looking like a frothing demagogue willing to say anything in an attempt to cling on to power.