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Greek PM Mitsotakis Survives Vote of No Confidence

Mitsotakis prime minister Greece
Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis survives vote of no confidence motion over handling of Tempe rail disaster. Credit: Prime Minister GR

The opposition’s proposal for a vote of no confidence in the Greek government over the management of the Tempe rail disaster has been dismissed after a 141-159 vote in favor of Mitsotakis’ party.

With the end of a three-day debate in parliament today – which ended an hour and a half later than scheduled – Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis struck back at the opposition, saying their motion was “unacceptable” and “inappropriate” and denigrating their “brutal attempt” to leverage the widespread grief felt after the February 28, 2023 Tempe train crash, which he claims went way beyond the families of the 57 dead and the hundreds of injured passengers.

Mitsotakis’ Response to Government Opposition Claims

“They tried to turn grief into a party banner” Mitsotakis said about the opposition. About the incident itself, which opposition speakers called a “crime”, Mitsotakis claimed it was the moment where the state’s longstanding structural inadequacies met with human error.

Speaking about the article in the Sunday newspaper To Vima, which led to socialist PASOK leader Nikos Androulakis tabling the no-confidence motion, Mitsotakis said it was misleading, and that the events it detailed – a supposed flurry of communications that highlighted the stationmaster’s responsibility for the crash – had been reported a long time ago by state TV ERT and that his government had no involvement.

The frontpage story cited doctored tapes leaked to the press immediately after the horrific train crash.

“It is legitimate for businesspeople and publishers to want to influence politics. Some have been elected President, or Prime Minister. Let them get into the arena themselves and not by proxy,” Mitsotakis said, implying that Androulakis had foreknowledge of the Sunday paper’s article. It is standard journalistic practice, he said, to call authorities ahead of publication and ask for their reaction. But this time, it was the opposition that was contacted.

Poking fun at his opponents, the prime minister argued the real creator of the motion – not present during his speech – was far-right Greek Solution party leader Kyriakos Velopoulos “whose conspiracy theories you have adopted.”

He commented on one of the theories at length – that authorities filled in the site to conceal the evidence. He said the decision to fill in the ground under the train was taken by rescue crews so they could lift the train and gain access to the bodies laying beneath it.

Addressing the accusation that the government is protecting then-transport minister Kostas Karamanlis, Mitsotakis came back saying that the opposition are welcome to indict Karamanlis on specific charges and that the parliament would decide whether to send the case to judicial authorities.

He also said that amendments to the law on ministerial responsibility had made it more difficult to dismiss such cases by invoking the statute of limitations. It is still true, however, that prosecuting a minister remains a long and complex process that is highly unlikely to succeed.

Amid the ongoing debate over the no-confidence vote, minister of state Stavros Papastavrou and deputy minister to the prime minister Yannis Bratakos handed in their resignations.

The prime minister reportedly thanked them for their service and accepted their resignations.

It has also been announced that the prime minister will now not be traveling to Washington in April due to conflicting obligations, having been expected to make his way to the US capital to attend an event at the White House commemorating the anniversary of the Greek revolution of 1821.

“The Prime Minister will not travel for the event in the US. This is not customary anyway. There was an attempt to organize a visit, but as the dates do not combine, considering that New Democracy’s conference is starting at which he should be present, it was not possible for him to go to this celebration,” government spokesperson Marinakis said.

Adding, “However, this does not change the fact that the relations between Greece and the US are at the best possible level”.

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