Greek opposition party seeks to bring down the government over its handling of a 2023 rail disaster

A Greek opposition party has submitted a motion of no-confidence in the government over its handling of a deadly railway disaster last year
Prime Minister of Greece Kyriakos Mitsotakis speaks at an event hosted by the Hellenic community in Toronto on Monday, March 25, 2024. (Arlyn McAdorey/The Canadian Press via AP)

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

Prime Minister of Greece Kyriakos Mitsotakis speaks at an event hosted by the Hellenic community in Toronto on Monday, March 25, 2024. (Arlyn McAdorey/The Canadian Press via AP)

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — A Greek opposition party Tuesday submitted a motion of no-confidence against the government, saying that it tried to cover up its responsibility over a deadly rail disaster last year that shocked Greece.

The Socialist Pasok party challenged the government following a newspaper report suggesting that audio leaked to the news media of rail officials had been chosen selectively to misleadingly indicate human error in the crash.

The three-day debate in parliament is due to end with a vote late Thursday.

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis’ center-right New Democracy party holds a comfortable majority of 158 seats in the 300-member parliament, meaning that the motion is unlikely to pass. But it could increase pressure on the government, whose critics accuse it of trying to sidestep responsibility for the circumstances of the crash.

The crash in the Tempi area of central Greece occurred on the night of Feb. 28, 2023, when a passenger train smashed into an oncoming cargo train put onto the same track and heading in opposite directions. It was Greece’s deadliest railway disaster. Many of the 57 people killed were university students heading back to class after a public holiday.

Renewed public attention on the disaster has dented Mitsotakis' majority in recent opinion polls, a little over 10 weeks before the European Parliament election in June. The crash highlighted long-standing problems with Greece’s rail safety monitoring systems, and relatives of the crash victims have been vocal in alleging a cover-up by the government of failures to implement safeguards that could have prevented the tragedy.

Nikos Androulakis, head of the center-left Pasok party, submitted the no-confidence motion on Tuesday following a Sunday newspaper publication that alleged that transcripts of conversations between the station manager and the train driver leaked to the media in the immediate aftermath of the crash had been heavily edited.

“In every scandal, in every government failure, you make the political choice to hide the truth, instead of taking the difficult road of responsibility,” Androulakis said in parliament as he submitted the motion.

To Vima newspaper said that the leaked audio of the stationmaster’s conversation with the train driver also contained unrelated conversations, which rendered it misleading.

The main opposition Syriza party, which is lefists, said that it would back the no-confidence motion. Government officials Tuesday denied claims that they were behind the leaks and described the parliamentary motion as a political stunt. ___

Derek Gatopoulos contributed to this report.