ATHENS – Already reeling in polls in an election year, Prime Minister and Radical Left SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras is dealing with another blow in a prosecutor’s report blaming his government’s chaotic response to the July 23, 2018 wildfires that killed 100 people.
In the immediate aftermath, Tsipras and ministers and officials responsible for dealing with the blaze said there would no operational failures but a number resigned or were forced out as a picture emerged that no one was in charge, there was no coordinated command center, no evacuation plan and no disaster response emergency scheme.
Before the damning report, Tsipras was claiming he had brought Greece to recovery from a nearly nine-year-long economic crisis without mentioning, if so, it was largely because he reneged on anti-austerity vows to get a third bailout from the Troika of the Europoean Union-European Central Bank-European Stability Mechanism (EU-ECB-ESM) for some 86 billion euros ($96.72 billion).
Making it worse for him, the report recommended charges be brought against 20 current and former officials and as private lawsuits have also been filed by families of victims. One of the accused is a leading SYRIZA member, Attica Regional Governor Rena Dourou, who is running again in the May 26 Greek municipal elections.
Polls show SYRIZA may lose in all other regional governor races around the country, apart from those of Western Greece and Crete, where the leftist party is supporting candidates from the now-defunct PASOK, which leads the center-left Movement for Change (KINAL).
A parliamentary debate on changes Tsipras wants to make to the Constitution, some to lessen the effect of what’s seen as his party’s certain defeat at the polls, could also focus more attention on SYRIZA’s failures.
With the departure of his former coalition partner, the pro-austerity, tiny, jingoistic Independent Greeks (ANEL) of ex-defense chief Panos Kammenos, who quit in objection to a deal renaming the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) as North Macedonia, Tsipras has been seeking another partner while running a minority government with the backing of a handful of allegedly independent lawmakers.
Spurned by the tiny To Potami group of academics and intellectuals, Tsipras’ entreaties to KINAL have also backfired, polls showed, with its members rallying against him, apart from former Democratic Left (DIMAR) leader Fotis Kouvelis who Tsipras made a minister.
Tsipras’ hopes to KO the poll-leading New Democracy by claiming 10 rival politicians, most of them with the Conservatives, had taken bribes from the Swiss pharmaceutical company Novartis gained him no leverage with voters as not a shred of evidence has emerged beyond the hearsay of three whistleblowers, two of whom remain secret.