Elections to respond to the challenge. Three weeks after the train disaster in Greece, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis announced on Tuesday that the legislative elections would be held in May while his government is weakened by an accident which revealed an older anger of the Greeks towards their leaders.
“I can tell you with certainty that the elections will take place in May,” said the leader of the conservative New Democracy (ND) party in his first television interview since the head-on collision between two trains that killed 57 people on February 28. He did not specify the exact date of this election which was to be held by July, at the end of the current mandate of his government. But it paved the way for another ballot in the process if the first does not achieve an absolute majority or if the parties with the best scores fail to form a coalition.
Demonstrations and quasi-general strike
The conservative, in power since 2019, has been under pressure since the train disaster that rocked the country and sent tens of thousands of angry Greeks onto the streets. Because if the accident was attributed to an error by the station master, it also revealed serious malfunctions in the country’s railways, the dilapidated state of the network and the flagrant delays in its modernization, particularly with regard to the safety and signage.
On March 8, at the “peak” of the mobilization, they were at least 65,000 in the streets, including 40,000 in the capital. After work stoppages in several sectors, Greece experienced an almost general strike on March 16 with an almost complete paralysis of transport.
The Prime Minister was also strongly criticized for his management of this accident, which was deemed calamitous, in particular when he assured from the outset that it was due to “a tragic human error”. Since then, he has worked to rectify the situation by asking forgiveness on several occasions from the families of the victims or by promising absolute transparency in the ongoing judicial investigation.
The gap narrows in the polls with Tsipras
The latest polls taken after the accident show that the gap is narrowing in voting intentions between New Democracy and the radical left Syriza led by Alexis Tsipras, Kyriakos Mitsotakis’ predecessor. With between 28.5% and 30.2% of voting intentions, the ND is only ahead of its main rival by 3.5 to 4.1 points.
During his mandate, Kyriakos Mitsotakis was also singled out for attacks on freedoms, particularly of the press. He is also at the heart of a telephone tapping scandal which affected hundreds of personalities, including the leader of the socialist party Pasok-Kinal. Athens has always denied having used the Israeli spyware Predator.