Laughing About Deadly Wildfires Forced Out Greek Minister, Mayor

ATHENS – Joking about how deadly 2007 wildfires across Greece helped New Democracy win elections by handing out compensation payments cost Agriculture Minister Spilios Livanos his post and Sparta Mayor Petros Doukas party membership.

The fires took the lives of 84 people, including a schoolteacher, her mother and four children trying to escape, but Livanos laughed in support when Doukas said the catastrophe was a boost for the Conservatives.
A government statement said Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis demanded an explanation from Livanos over his reaction to the “unacceptable reference” and the minister “admitted that he should have reacted differently” and offered his resignation.

It was in a video from a meeting Livanos attended in Sparta where Doukas – a former cabinet official when New Democracy was in power from 2004-07 is heard saying the party was able to win the 2007 election against the odds “by taking bags (of money) to compensate” people afflicted by the wildfires.

Mayor of Sparta, Petros Doukas. (Photo by Eurokinissi/ Tatiana Bollari)
Mayor of Sparta, Petros Doukas. (Photo by Eurokinissi/ Tatiana Bollari)

Livanos appeared in the video to laugh and say it would be hard to match that “epic achievement,” a remark he later admitted was inappropriate given the scale of the disaster and lives lost.

During his visit to Sparta, he had announced compensation payments to farmers who suffered crop damage from frost, inexplicably tying together a deadly disaster to lost agricultural products.

Doukas was expelled from the party, the government statement adding it was because his remarks “as well as being historically inaccurate, have nothing to do with New Democracy’s principles and values.”

Mitsotakis became party leader in 2016 and was not a member of the 2004-2009 government and has repeatedly ruled out early elections demanded by the major rival SYRIZA until the next scheduled polls in 2023.

Doukas served as deputy foreign minister from 2007-09 and deputy finance minister from 2004-07.

At a meeting in Sparta on February 2 to discuss paying compensation to farmers who lost crops due to the recent frost, Doukas bragged that “this is how we won the elections in 2007,” said Kathimerini.

“We went down [there] with bags and compensated all those who had … (been affected by the fires,)” he is heard saying in the video of the meeting, which was broadcast live on Facebook.

“We literally turned the game around, we were trailing 15 percent … we would have been destroyed, we went there and with two moves we turned the whole game around,” Doukas said..

Doukas served as an MP until 2009, when he was not included on the New Democracy ballot due to his alleged role in the Vatopedi Monastery land-swap scandal but his career wasn’t affected until just now.


(Material from the Associated Press was used in this report)


ATHENS - "It is certain that the SYRIZA party of 172,000 members will be the first party by far in the next general elections, whenever Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis decides to hold these," underlined main opposition SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras in his statement late on Sunday, commenting on the results of the vote to elect the SYRIZA party's leadership.

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