ATHENS – Portraying his major political rival New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis as being from the elite, Prime Minister and Radical Left SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras took a vacation on a yacht a few weeks after July, 2018 fires killed 102 people around Athens.
That news came out just after a documentary on SKAI TV showing some alleging the government tried to hide the death toll and with the Leftists plummeting in polls ahead of May 26 elections for Greek municipalities and the European Parliament.
Aris Portosalte, a radio host Tweeted two photographs of Tsipras aboard yacht, an unsettling juxtaposition to the scenes of people who jumped into the sea around the village of Mati to escape the inferno with the government sending only a few vessels to help.
Tsipras did not reveal he was on the yacht during a vacation that came as there was still outrage over the government’s bungled attempt to have a command center with reports of chaos and confusion with no evacuation or disaster plans in place.
He went to Mati after the conflagration and promised to help rebuild the village and raze unlawful buildings around Athens after reports that illegal construction had blocked the escape routes of some victims who couldn’t get to the nearby sea and perished.
During a campaign rally in the northeast city of Xanthi, Tsipras did not mention furor over the news of the yacht photo, said the business newspaper Naftemporiki although he repeated his “people vs. the elite” pitch trying to show it’s SYRIZA backing people versus invested interests.
New Democracy responded:”We offer him (Tsipras) up for the ridicule of the Greek people,” over the embarrassing imagery of the Premier frolicking on a yacht while the death toll was still being counted and autopsies going on.
His week-long family cruise was confirmed by the yacht’s owner, Katerina Panagopoulou, widow of shipowner Pericles Panagopoulos, the founder of Attica Group and one of the most respected executives in the shipping industry for decades.
Panagopoulou, who serves as an unsalaried General Secretary for Greek diaspora issues in Tsipras’ office, said her late husband suggested the holiday to Tsipras, whom she said appeared “fatigued” in August 2018.
She also blamed “vested interests” linked with media groups for targeting Tsipras over the specific yacht holiday on the 30-meter vessel named Odyssey as the tweets of the photo came after a newspaper columnist had said Tsipras went on the undeclared vacation.
Tsipras vowed to “crush the oligarchy,” and put a tax on Greek shipowners but backed off almost as soon as he took power.