Three weeks after the train disaster in Greece, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis announced on Tuesday (March 21st) that elections would be held in May while his government is weakened after an accident that revealed an older anger of 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 the evening of February 28. He did not specify the exact date of this general election which was due to take place between now and July, when his government's current mandate expires.

But it paved the way for another election in the wake if the first does not allow an absolute majority to be achieved or if the parties with the best scores fail to form a coalition. "A second election may be necessary. It's very likely," he told private channel Alpha.

The conservative, in power since 2019, has been under pressure since the disaster that shook the country and brought tens of thousands of angry Greeks to the streets.

Calamite management

Although the accident was attributed to an error on the part of the stationmaster, it also revealed serious malfunctions in the Greek railways, the obsolescence of the network and the flagrant delays in its modernisation, particularly with regard to safety and signalling.

The Prime Minister was also strongly criticised for his management deemed calamitous of this accident notably 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 repeatedly asking for forgiveness from the families of the victims or by promising absolute transparency in the ongoing judicial investigation to establish responsibility. But in the processions chanting "murderers" and demanding accountability from the authorities accused of negligence or negligence, calls for the resignation of Kyriakos Mitsotakis are multiplying.

On March 8, at the "peak" of the mobilization, they were at least 65,000 in the streets to shout their fed up, including 40,000 in the capital. After work stoppages in several sectors, Greece experienced a quasi-general strike on March 16 with an almost complete paralysis of transport.


The processions, by their size, are reminiscent of the large demonstrations in the early 2010s when Greece, shaken by the financial crisis, was imposed drastic economic measures by its creditors, the European Union and the International Monetary Fund. "The demonstrations after the tragedy in Tempé are comparable to those of 2011," said the Public Issue institute in a recent analysis.

Many Greeks are alarmed by the deterioration of public services in a country that to pay off its debts had to privatize entire sections of its public sector, including rail passenger and freight transport sold in 2017 to the Italian public company Ferrovie Dello Stato Italiane (FS).

The latest polls conducted after the accident show that the gap is narrowing in voting intentions between New Democracy and the radical left Syriza led by Alexis Tsipras, predecessor of Kyriakos Mitsotakis. With between 28.5% and 30.2% of voting intentions, ND is now only ahead of its main rival by 3.5 to 4.1 points, according to the institutes.

Young people, especially students, are at the top of the list of discontented while the media and analysts believe that they have often been sacrificed in the last ten years. The daily Kathimerini recently spoke of "the bankruptcy and pandemic generation" about the under-25s also hit by unemployment.

With AFP

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