NEWS

Rural Development Minister resigns after controversial comment on 2007 Ilia fires

Rural Development Minister resigns after controversial comment on 2007 Ilia fires

Rural Development & Food Minister Spilios Livanos submitted his resignation on Monday after seeming to agree with comments by a local mayor that New Democracy won the national elections in September 2007 by handing out money to the victims of the deadly wildfires that devastated the region of Ilia earlier that summer.

According to the prime minister’s office, Kyriakos Mitsotakis called Livanos to demand an explanation about his reaction to the remarks of conservative Sparta Mayor Petros Doukas. The minister “admitted that he should have reacted differently and made his resignation available to the Prime Minister,” who accepted it.

Addressing Livanos at a meeting in Sparta on February 2 to discuss paying compensations to farmers who lost crops due to the recent frost, Doukas bragged that “this is how we won the elections in 2007.”

“We went down [there] with bags and compensated all those who had…[been affected by the fires]” he is heard saying in the video of the meeting which was broadcast live on Facebook from the website Lakones and republished in local website ilialive.gr.

“These years were unforgettable,” someone from the meeting says, interrupting Doukas.

“We literally turned the game around, we where we trailing 15% [in the polls], we would have been destroyed, we went there and with two moves we turned the whole game around,” the mayor of Sparta continues.

“You made history then with what you did there… and we all fall short whatever we do after that epic time,” Livanos responds, with everyone laughing.

A new minister will be appointed later in the day. 

The lethal fires which broke out in August 2007 in the western and southern Peloponnese burned down about 270,000 hectares of farmland and forests and resulted in 84 deaths, including several fire fighters. 

In his letter of resignation made public later Monday, Livanos pleaded that he was misunderstood, but admitted that his response was inappropriate. 

“My path in politics thus far and my code of values are far from the content of a dialogue with the mayor of Sparta, which was recorded without my knowledge and posted on a website…Despite my obviously ironic attitude towards his unacceptable and cynical statement, and in order to avoid any further misinterpretation that could negatively affect the principles of the great and liberal democratic party, I place at your disposal my resignation from the post of Minister of Rural Development and Foods,” Livanos wrote to his former classmate, the Prime Minister.