The Greek neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party will enter parliament for the first time in nearly 40 years, exit polls showed as ballots closed in an early election that could derail the country’s reforms.
The party is calculated to win between six and eight percent of the vote on rising immigration and crime concerns, comfortably above the three-percent threshold required for to enter parliament.
The group reacted jubilantly and claimed the result would translate into more than 25 deputies in the 300-seat parliament, a stunning blow to mainstream parties.
“A new nationalist movement dawns,” Golden Dawn said on its website.
“Hundreds of thousands of Greeks have dynamically joined the national cause for a great, free Greece,” it said.
Once part of the country’s political fringe, the Hryssi Avgi (Golden Dawn) had already made headlines in 2010 by electing its leader to the Athens city council on a wave of anti-immigration tension in the capital’s poorer districts.
In the two years that followed, with Greece sinking deeper into recession and over a million people out of job, Golden Dawn’s strength grew further.
Now they appear to have multiplied their support tenfold.
With Greece the main entry-point for irregular migration to Europe, thousands of migrants unable to cross to other EU states due to legal constraints have created urban ghettos in Athens, Patras and other cities.
Hostility from local residents has spiked in recent months with the deterioration of an economic crisis that has brought recession and hundreds of thousands of job losses in Greece.
Migrants are also blamed for increased muggings, car thefts and break-ins.