ATHENS – After a period of mourning for the 57 people killed in a head-on train collision, Greece’s two major parties have returned to campaign mode with elections on the horizon, using the tragedy to attack each other.
The major opposition SYRIZA-Progressive Alliance, unseated in the July 2019 snap elections when they were the Radical Left, criticized the New Democracy government’s Development and Investments Minister Adonis Georgiadis for saying the catastrophe presented an “opportunity” to “confront the Establishment.”
In a statement, SYRIZA accused Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis’ administration of showing “a crescendo of arrogance, brazenness, and shunting of responsibility.”
The Leftists also criticized Mitsotakis for saying the disaster at Tempe was a “sacrifice” of mostly young university students that would lead to the railways finally being fixed after successive governments failed to implement safety measures.
“Under normal circumstances, we would explain to the brazen Mr. Georgiadis that the ‘Establishment’ was set up by New Democracy some 40 years ago now and that Mr. Mitsotakis has been expanding it for four years as he governs with political favors, a lack of meritocracy, and the most old-school party methods,” the party said, adding that it was only after the tragedy that the prime minister “remembered” that he must tackle the Establishment.
“However, these are not normal circumstances as 57 human lives have been tragically lost. We would expect Mr. Mitsotakis and his ministers…to at least respect the pain of the victims’ families. Some humility and compassion would not be misplaced,” the statement also added in criticism.
Georgiadis had earlier stated that the public should not have been made aware of safety concerns on the railways as it could have discouraged ticket sales, which drew even more criticism for the government.
A’s FOR EVERYONE
In an interview with state broadcaster ERT, Voridis stated that SYRIZA was against evaluating workers and added that the accident at Tempi could have been avoided if such evaluations had been implemented. He was referring to a report by the country’s railways regulatory agency RAS that found that the stationmaster on duty at the station nearest the accident had not received adequate training, having been on the job for only four days.
However, former finance minister Euclid Tsakalotos, who served in the SYRIZA government, responded on the same station, stating that their government had brought a lot of evaluation data and that they did not disparage trade unionists. He added that the trade unionists had warned about the dangers on the trains, and former Transportation Minister Kostas Karamanlis had ignored them. Karamanlis resigned after the tragedy, but did not take any responsibility for failing to implement safety measures during his four-year term in office.
Voridis continued the discussion by stating that the main point of debate was whether there should be an effective evaluation system in place. He pointed out that the evaluation system implemented during Tsakalotos’ tenure resulted in 96% of individuals receiving A grades, making it an ineffective system.
Voridis went on to highlight that SYRIZA and ANEL party members were appointed to the Railway Regulatory Authority, with some even bringing letters of recommendation from the wife of Mr. Kamenos. ANEL was a far-right party that SYRIZA brought in as a coalition partner because they did not have enough parliamentary seats to govern alone.