Government officials mocked the decision by the main opposition leftist SYRIZA party to table a motion of no confidence as a desperation move in the face of polls that continue to show it well behind ruling center-right New Democracy and facing a resurgent socialist party.
Citizen Protection Minister Takis Theodorikakos, the first minister to speak during the first day of a three-day debate on the censure motion, said SYRIZA’s proposal is also an attempt to paper over its internal disagreements and accused the opposition of having nothing negative to say about the operators of Attiki Odos, the motorway around Athens that also links the capital to its airport, who failed to keep the motorway open, stranding over 2,000 motorists during a heavy snowstorm last Monday.
Theodorikakos admitted that the government and the state agencies failed to adequately respond to the uncommon storm, although they had ample warning.
“We do not hide problems, we do not hide mistakes and weaknesses,” he said. But he still claimed that “if we knew Attiki Odos would shut down, we would have taken different decisions. There was the operator’s reassurance the road would stay open.”
He reminded MPs that Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis forced the motorway operator to pay each stranded motorist €2,000.
“You have been stricken, and burdened, by the fear of you electoral shrinking,” Theodorikakos taunted SYRIZA MPs.
Recent polls have shown the socialist Movement for Change (KINAL), under new leadership, within striking distance of SYRIZA for second place, while SYRIZA itself keeps trailing New Democracy in double figures in voting intentions.
Mitsotakis attended Theodorikakos’ speech Friday afternoon but did not intervene in the debate. He is expected to do so on Sunday, along with opposition leader, and his predecessor as prime minister, Alexis Tsipras.
Mitsotakis did comment on the motion of no confidence in informal discussions with his own MPs.
“SYRIZA’s proposal was something we expected. They are providing us with the chance to highlight our policies. SYRIZA is betting on polarization. We will not play their game,” he is said to have told his MPs.
About 220 of the Parliament’s 300 MPs will speak during the debate, which is expected to conclude at 8 p.m. Sunday, or soon thereafter, with a roll-call vote. And, whatever SYRIZA’s motives for provoking the debate, it will still be about the government’s response, or lack thereof, to an unusually severe, but expected, weather event.