Growing support for Greece's far-right maverick party

Athens  - Greece's Popular Orthodox Rally, which is known for its anti-Semitic statements and controversial stance on immigration, appeared to be gaining ground, with a growing number of disenchanted voters leaning towards the far-right party ahead of Sunday's polls.

Under the leadership of controversial journalist Georgios Karatzaferis, the Popular Orthodox Rally - often abbreviated to LAOS, as a pun on the Greek word for "people" - is expected to once again break the 3 per cent threshold needed to enter the 300-seat parliament.

Recent opinion polls indicate LAOS could win up to 6.4 per cent of support.

In 2007, LAOS became the first far-right group to enter parliament in 2007 since the end of a seven-year dictatorship in 1974. Last year, the party managed to secure to seats in the European Parliament.

Karatzaferis founded LAOS after his expulsion from the conservative New Democracy Party in 2000 over his extreme and often racist views.

A 2005 US State Department report on anti-Semitism singled out Karatzaferis as "regularly attributing negative events involving Greece to Jewish plots."

The LAOS leader has said: "Pope and the Jews are conspiring against Greece," and that "Jews were responsible for the September 11 attacks."

In what commentators describe as a attempt to shed his far-right image, Karatzaferis has claimed he keeps photos of Che Guevara and Fidel Castro in his office as symbols against the United States.

Like other smaller parties running in the upcoming parliamentary elections, LAOS is capitalizing on voter discontent with the bigger and more established parties in the wake of corruption scandals, rising numbers of illegal immigrants and devastating forest fires that in Athens.

Karatzaferis rejects the nationalist tag, but in previous elections has recruited members of the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn group which has been blamed for a spate of violent attacks against leftist groups and immigrants.

A growing percentage of Greeks blame spiralling crime and drug use on the increasing illegal immigrants population.

Playing on fears, LAOS has campaigned for the introduction of immigration quotas, arguing that Greece has too many foreign immigrants and proposing that "1,6 million of them should return."

Karatzaferis has also suggested that Turkey should be offered a special partnership accord rather than full accession to the European Union.

On the issue of economic policy, Karatzaferis supports drastic tax cuts for both businesses and individuals and wants companies that generate less than 200,000 euros (290,000 dollars) per year to be exempt from taxes. (dpa)