After rail disaster and anger, Greeks called to polls on May 21

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After train disaster and anger, Greeks called to polls on May 21

A month after a train disaster that left 57 dead and angered the population, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis announced that general elections would be held on May 21, 2023. (File photo)

A month after the train disaster in Greece that left 57 dead and sparked a wave of anger against the government, conservative Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, under pressure, announced on Tuesday the holding of a x27;legislative elections on May 21.

The country and the citizens need clear horizons, said the head of government, in power since July 2019, during a council of ministers.

He there have been mistakes, but we are here to correct them, he acknowledged. Our motto is now to move forward together, he pleaded.

Until now, the Prime Minister had only indicated that the elections, which must allow to renew the 300 seats of the unicameral Parliament (Vouli), were to take place in May.

The leader of the right-wing New Democracy (ND) party has been grappling with a massive protest movement since the collision between two trains on February 28, which left 57 people dead and brought to light serious malfunctions in the railways. iron.

At the height of the protests, on March 8, 65,000 people took to the streets, reminiscent of the processions of the early 2010s when, in the midst of a financial slump, Greece had to agree to painful economy measures which provoked the rejection of a population considering itself sacrificed.

To cries of assassins, the Greeks, especially the young, forcefully demonstrated their indignation in the face of what the authorities have called a national tragedy.

They are particularly harsh with the political class, accused of carelessness for decades.

This train accident is the straw that broke the camel's back, summed up a protester, Spyridoula Togia, 30, a college professor in Athens on March 8.

Kyriakos Mitsotakis was also beaten for his management of the accident, which was deemed disastrous, in particular when he affirmed, the next day, that it was a tragic human error.

However, if the station master in office that evening was charged and remanded in custody after admitting his responsibility, the dilapidated state-owned rail network, the serious delays in modernizing the security system and the lack of personnel were singled out.

A few weeks before the collision, the unions had warned of the risk of a serious accident without having been heard by politicians.

Contrite, Kyriakos Mitsotakis has repeatedly made his mea culpa and recognized chronic failures in the railways.

In a country where justice is regularly accused of bias, he also promised absolute transparency in the ongoing judicial investigation to establish responsibilities.

At the beginning of March, the rally to protest against the state of the railway network and to denounce the collision which occurred between two trains turned into a confrontation in Athens, Greece.

Some parades degenerated into violent clashes between demonstrators and police, the latter being accused of using disproportionate force.

Since the disaster, the gap between the ND and its main rival, Syriza, the radical left party of former Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras (2015-2019), has narrowed. With between 28.5% and 30.2% of voting intentions, the ND is now only ahead of its main rival by 3.5 to 4.1 points, according to polls.

Many Greeks have expressed bitterness over what they see as a decline in public services since the austerity plans imposed by Greece's creditors to stave off the country's bankruptcy.

< p class="e-p">Kyriakos Mitsotakis, 55, said a second ballot would be held no later than early July if the first does not yield an absolute majority or if the parties with the best scores fail to form a coalition.

Indeed, due to two electoral reforms that entered into force successively, the legislative elections of May 21 will be held by simple proportional representation.

In the event of a second ballot, a bonus of seats will be granted to the party that comes first, according to a law passed by the Conservative government.

During his mandate, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, whose the father was himself Prime Minister in the early 1990s, was also singled out for attacks on freedoms, particularly of the press.

He is also at the heart of ;a telephone tapping scandal which affected hundreds of personalities, including the leader of the socialist party PASOK-KINAL. Athens has always denied having used the Israeli spyware Predator.

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