News Update


Greek elections: A rail catastrophe looms over a dynasty-dominated vote

The view from Kastraki Primary School is about as breathtaking as voting booth backgrounds come.

The scattered monasteries located atop the enormous rocks above entice tourists.

Underneath this stunning natural beauty, though, is a society gripped by sadness.

That’s because Greece’s worst-ever train accident claimed the lives of three of their biggest stars in February as they were supposed to be voting for the first time.

They were among the 57 fatalities when an intercity train from Athens to Thessaloniki collided head-on with a goods train travelling along the same track.

Opposition parties have often brought up the catastrophe in the run-up to Sunday’s general election as evidence of a shattered administration and a dysfunctional state.

The relatives of those killed in the Tempi train accident have received visits from both Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis of the center-right New Democracy and his predecessor Alexis Tsipras of the far-left Syriza.

The story is mostly one of personal grief, though.

Dimitris Plakias sighs, “My Anastasia,” as he gazes outside from the terrace of his family’s eatery. As he talks about his daughter, tears start to form in his eyes.

“I’m grateful that, even for a brief while, I had her as a daughter. Always be proud of me. She was a unique young lady with nothing but love to give.

The Greek community of Kastraki was among those affected by the calamity that struck Greece in February. Anastasia and her twin cousins Thomi and Chrysa were on the same passenger train.

All of them were under 20 years old.

The young women were students returning to the University of Thessaloniki after spending a public holiday with their family, just like so many of the other fatalities.

A thorough inquiry turned up several mistakes.

According to Anastasia’s father, “We call it a state assassination of our children, and all the people who were aboard that train.” Which European nation could make this possible?

When I inquire if Mr. Plakias has confidence that any politician or political group will work to avert a similar calamity, he shakes his head.

Greek aristocracy incensed by teenage victims of rail disaster
The surnames on ballot papers throughout the nation add to many voters’ frustration that nothing will change.

Greece is by far means the only country that has fostered political dynasties, yet across all ideological divides, strong family networks continue to rule the stage.

Father of Kyriakos Mitsotakis served as prime minister, sister as foreign minister, and nephew as Athens’ current mayor.

On May 18, 2023, in Thessaloniki, the conservative New Democracy party’s primary election rally, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis gestures to his supporters.
Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis is ahead in the polls, but it seems improbable that his party can win a majority.
We witness a cab driver welcome the statue of Konstantinos Karamanlis, the man who founded modern Greece and served as its first president, in the village of Proti, two hours’ journey north of the cliffs of Kastraki.

He calls out to the community’s well-known son, “Hello, big guy,” as he lifts his boot to expose a pile of gleaming cherries that he will later sell to get some extra money.

However, whereas Karamanlis, who was memorialised in metal, lives on as a giant from beyond the grave and across political boundaries, his nephew Kostas, who is also a distant relative of another prime minister, has drawn widespread ire.

Kostas Karamanlis resigned as transport minister the day after the tragic train accident, saying that the rail system he oversaw was unfit for its intended use.

He wept in front of everyone as he inspected the destruction, but it didn’t stop him from running for re-election this weekend, which infuriated many of the bereaved relatives.

We discover support for the young members of the Karamanlis clan as well as sorrow for the grieving in the village coffee shop.

Giannis Sarigiannis, 79, is introduced to us by the business owner.

Is Kostas Karamanlis a GiannisBBC? When he was a boy, I spent more time with him than I did with my own children.
1 px transparent line for Giannis Sarigiannis
It turns out that Giannis served as the family’s chauffeur while Konstantinos was the respected prime minister.

I question whether the previous minister of transport couldn’t also have left politics out of respect for the deceased.

Giannis counters, “This crash was not his fault. And speaking of his family, they are a decent one. modest individuals.

And for that reason, he adds with a smirk, he will vote for the current government’s New Democracy party.

As you go south to the capital Athens, you’ll notice that many voters’ rage is being fueled by claims of nepotism and clientelism.

The high cost of living is the main factor in this election, as it is in many others taking place right now around the world.

Elena, a widowed senior, walks us through her most recent grocery list as we wait outside a supermarket in a left-leaning neighbourhood.

Bread, tomatoes, and beans have all increased in price, she claims.

She would support Syriza, the party that held power from 2015 to 2019 and oversaw the years of continued suffering brought on by the Greek bailout’s harsh expenditure restrictions.

Before the elections on May 21st, Syriza’s Alexis Tsipras spoke during a campaign rally in the Greek capital’s Syntagma Square. Image source: Nicolas Economou/NurPhoto/Getty
The left-leaning Syriza party of Alexis Tsipras is trailing the center-right New Democracy party by a significant margin, but I pointed out to Elena, citing EU statistics, that the Greek GDP increased by 6% last year.

Well, it’s possible that’s the case, but I don’t feel it. Everything I buy will increase by 20% to 30%.

Greeks are the most likely in the EU to report being unable to pay their monthly expenditures, even if the country’s economy is recovering.

If winning that award is something no nation wants, then neither is Greece’s recent designation as the worst EU nation for journalistic freedom, which it received for the second year in a row.

What became known as Greece’s Watergate was largely to blame for the negative grade.

Using wiretaps and spyware that had infected their phones, journalists and politicians, including the leader of the third-largest party, were spied on last year, it was revealed.

The head of Greek intelligence and the prime minister’s nephew, who served as chief of staff, both left their positions, but the leader of the government was able to remain in office.

According to investigative reporter Eliza Triantafyllou of the unaffiliated publication Inside Story, “It was a huge scandal.”

She and her colleagues have researched the topic assiduously, but she accuses the mainstream media of failing to give it enough attention in the run-up to this election.

When it was originally made public, “they didn’t make a big deal about it, and they just kept taking the government’s statements as gospel.”

Triantafyllou ElizaNo pressure came from the media, according to BBC. And in other ways, the administration escaped punishment.
Inside Story reporter Eliza Triantafyllou 1px transparent line
No party will win a majority if the polls are accurate, so the Greek people will likely have to choose between a coalition administration or a second election in July.

That is in part due to the 300-member parliament eliminating a bonus of 50 seats for the victorious party.

The “lost decade” is over, according to Macropolis political expert Nick Malkoutzis, and voters want to move on.

People must choose whose hands they are better off in since they can see that there may be a nascent economic recovery in the works. According to opinion polls, they put the most faith in Mitsotakis.

Though the public may now turn to them to share power, the same old names may still play a significant role in Greek politics.

Many voters ask when Greece’s economic growth will also be shared at the polls.

Kostas Kallergis contributed additional reporting.


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