The Greek neo-Nazi leader has said that his movement will spread across Europe after his party Golden Dawn won 21 seats in parliament.
“Greece is only the beginning,” Nikos Michaloliakos shouted at reporters outside his office in a rundown section of central Athens after the vote.
Musclebound supporters forced journalists attending his post-election press conference to stand as a mark of respect for their leader – prompting at least one to walkout.
Mr Michaloliakos, 55, a mathematician with a prison record, vowed that his party would fight against “world usurers” and the “slavery” of the EU-IMF austerity programme.
Citing Julius Caesar, he declared: “Veni, Vidi, Vici” – “I came, I saw, I conquered.” He added: “The time for fear has come for those who betrayed this homeland. We are coming.”
Mr Michaloliakos made headlines in 2010 when he won a seat on the Athens city council and gave a Fascist straight-arm salute in the chamber. But Sunday’s general election was the first time that the party crossed the 3 per cent threshold to enter parliament in the cradle of democracy. It took 7 per cent of the vote – a huge increase from the 0.23 per cent in the 2009 election.
Black-clad supporters celebrated outside their party offices in Athens with firecrackers, military anthems and cries of the Nazi slogan “blood and honour”. Ioannis Vouldis, a veterinarian who won a seat for the party in Athens, said: “We have been saying for a long time that we are coming, and we have arrived. It will change a lot of things.”
Golden Dawn, which uses an ancient Greek symbol that looks like a swastika and the slogan “Greece Above All”, believes in throwing out all illegal immigrants and putting landmines along its borders to stop any returning.
Mr Michaloliakos has said that immigrants born in Greece should be allowed to remain but not have the right to vote or stand for office.
The party is sometimes compared to the Islamic fundamentalist groups such as Hamas or Hezbollah because of its social outreach. Every week, it collects food donations to give to the poor. Its members offer protection to old ladies who want to be escorted to the bank or shops in tough neighbourhoods. A simple telephone call to the party hotline suffices.
Its supporters, however, have been associated with vice and violence. Members were accused of attacking a candidate from the Pan-Hellenic Socialist Movement (Pasok). As a young man, Mr Michaloliakos served time in jail for possession of explosives.
Haris Kousoumbres, the former party No 3 who defected in 2002, wrote a self-published book titled Tearing Down the Myth of Golden Dawn before he dropped out of view. He said that he was required to read Hitler’s Mein Kampf and the writings of Josef Goebbels before being made a full member, and then received 45 stitches in fights with political rivals. “Unfortunately, I was forced to commit violent acts against friends of mine because they disagreed with the leader,” he wrote.
Thomas Barakas, 25, who lost his job in a wholesale company 18 months ago, voiced the disaffection that lies behind much of the group’s support. “I joined because I grew up in a neighbourhood where there were a lot of drugs and immigrants. I saw my best friend almost killed by an Albanian with a machete,” he said. “Golden Dawn is a movement that is going to clean up all of this dirt.”
Moshe Kantor, the head of the European Jewish Congress, said: “Golden Dawn does not even hide its Nazi tendencies. The fact that they have gained a semblance of support and power should rock Europe to its foundations and force European leaders to rethink their priorities.”