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Greek MPs take power - for one day

The 300 MPs elected in Greece's inconclusive May 6 ballot have been sworn in, including 21 from the right-wing Golden Dawn party.

Golden Dawn vehemently rejects the neo-Nazi label, insisting it is a nationalist patriotic party. But its meteoric rise from a largely marginalised party a few years ago to one that won nearly 7% in recent elections has alarmed many in Greece and in Europe.

The 21 MPs - 20 men and one woman - were the first to enter the main chamber of Parliament for the swearing-in ceremony.

The Golden Dawn ones refused to stand for the separate swearing-in of two Greek Muslim MPs who took their oaths on the Koran instead of on the Bible, remaining seated as the rest of the assembly stood.

"Beginning today Golden Dawn is officially in Parliament to speak the language of truth and to express all Greeks," said MP Ilias Kassidiaris.

The MPs will only be in power for one day. The May 6 election left no party with enough votes to form a government after Greeks furious over the handling of the country's financial crisis deserted the two formerly dominant parties, the socialists and conservatives, and turned instead to smaller groups to the right and left.

Coalition talks collapsed after nine days, leaving no other option but a return to the ballot box. A caretaker government has been appointed, to be led by a senior judge, and the newly sworn-in Parliament is to be dissolved tomorrow so an election can officially be called. It is expected to be held June 17.

Golden Dawn gained both on the protest vote from people angered by the increasing hardship ensuing from the austerity measures imposed in return for billions of euros in international rescue loans, and from the backlash against an illegal immigration problem that has spiralled out of control.

It campaigned on an anti-immigration platform, promising to expel all illegal immigrants and clean up crime-ridden neighbourhoods, while also delivering care packages of food and clothing to needy Greeks. It also advocates planting land mines along Greece's border with Turkey to stop any more illegal immigrants entering the country. And its members have been blamed for violent racist attacks in the centre of Athens and elsewhere.

Greece's 16-member caretaker Cabinet, led by Council of State head Panagiotis Pikrammenos, a 67-year-old judge, was also sworn in to lead the country to next month's election. Giorgos Zanias, a senior Finance Ministry official and top negotiator in the nation's huge debt write down deal concluded earlier this year, has been appointed caretaker finance minister.

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