A censure motion brought by the main opposition party against the Greek government over its handling of a severe snowstorm last Monday has been rejected after a three-day debate.
Lawmakers voted 156-142 against the motion after an often acrimonious debate in which former prime minister and current opposition leader Alexis Tsipras attacked Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, often veering far off the subject under discussion.
The result was expected, as the ruling center-right New Democracy holds 157 seats in the 300-member Parliament. A ruling party lawmaker, veteran MP Marietta Giannakou, is hospitalized, and another MP, Konstantinos Bogdanos, expelled last October, voted “present.”
Tsipras accused Mitsotakis of having “retreated into a bubble created by court jesters and incompetent pollsters,” and of being “politically finished.” He dared the prime minister to resign and call a new election, a year and a half before the end of the government’s four-year term.
The opposition leader painted a bleak picture of a country, with citizens unable to live even paycheck to paycheck, with a gutted national health system by a government still sticking to a failed neoliberal orthodoxy.
Tsipras mocked Mitsotakis’ televised apology two days after the snowstorm and added: “you owe 23,275 apologies to the families who lost loved ones during the pandemic.
“You have failed, ladies and gentlemen of the government. You have failed at great cost,” Tsipras said, adding that the government is the only one believing its own propaganda. “The citizens have developed immunity, but you are addicted.”
Tsipras even asked Mitsotakis for making political capital out of the disastrous July 2018 fire, in which 102 people lost their lives. The Tsipras government and the left-led Attica local authority had faced a storm of criticism for their response and of staging, for the benefitof the cameras, a meeting under Tsipras on the night of the fire in which no deaths were mentioned.
In his response, Mitsotakis acknowledged deficiencies in dealing with the storm, but concentrated on enumerating his government’s achievements. To counter Tsipras’ narratives that he had gutted the health service, he noted that his government had doubled the number of intensive care units and hired 12,000 health workers. He promised an era of prosperity when the effects of the pandemic receded.
Mitsotakis also took a dig at Tsipras. “Your challenge now is to stay in second place.”
The latest polls, the validity of which the opposition vehemently disputes, show New Democracy with a persistent double-digit lead, with the socialist Movement for Change (KINAL), under a new leader, closing in on Tsipras’ left-wing SYRIZA.
Monday’s storm dumped large amounts of snow on Athens, trapping thousands of drivers on the road connecting the capital to its airport, closing other main roads and forcing the government to send in the Army to help the motorists. There were also widespread power outages.