ATHENS (Reuters) – Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis on Sunday won a confidence vote called by the main opposition over his government’s handling of a snowstorm last week that stranded thousands of people on a motorway and drew public outrage.
The cold front that hit Greece on Jan. 24 blanketed the country in snow, from Athens to its islands. About 3,000 cars became trapped on the capital’s main ring road for hours, with authorities having to call in the army to evacuate them.
Authorities faced widespread criticism over their handling of the extreme weather conditions despite warnings from meteorologists.
In his address to lawmakers ahead of the vote, Mitsotakis called the censure motion “a desperate move” that was “clearly doomed to fail.”
He said the government had faced unprecedented crises since coming to power in 2019, including the COVID-19 pandemic, and, referring to the snowstorm, accused the main opposition Syriza party of “intrumentalizing a natural disaster” to pile pressure on the government.
The conservative government, which enjoys a comfortable majority in the 300-seat parliament, won by 156 votes to 142.
Syriza submitted the no-confidence motion saying the government had failed in its duty to protect the country. It also accused it of mishandling the pandemic and rising prices, and called on the government to resign.
“Only with elections and a progressive government with Syriza in its core will this downfall end,” Syriza leader and former prime minister Alexis Tsipras told parliament.
As well as bringing transport in Athens to a halt, the storm, named Elpida, disrupted flights and left thousands of households without power for days. The government declared two days of public holidays last week, shutting public services, non-essential businesses and schools.
Mitsotakis has apologised for the state’s lack of preparedness, but said responsibility lay with the private operator of the Attiki Odos motorway.
Recent polls conducted before the snowstorms showed the ruling New Democracy leading by more than 10 points over Syriza, but they also suggested the government’s image had been hurt by the pandemic and inflation.
The next general election is due in 2023.
Reporting by Karolina Tagaris Editing by Peter Graff and Toby Chopra
Photo Greek main opposition SYRIZA – Progressive Alliance leader Alexis Tsipras (R) delivers a speech during a debate on a motion of censure against the government at the Greek Parliament, in Athens, Greece, 30 January 2022. The censure motion was introduced by Tsipras, who said that a series of crises like the pandemic, price hikes, and snowstorm management ‘prove that Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and his government are ineffective and dangerous for t