Greece to have elections in May, prime minister says

Budget vote in Athens
Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis speaks during a parliamentary session before a budget vote in Athens, Greece, December 17, 2022. REUTERS/Costas Baltas

ATHENS, March 21 (Reuters) - Greece will hold general elections in May, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said in a television interview on Tuesday.

The conservative government's four-year term expires in July, and Mitsotakis was widely expected to call an election in early April.

Opinion polls show his New Democracy party's lead over the leftist opposition Syriza party shrinking following Greece's worst rail disaster on Feb. 28.

The accident, during which a passenger train and a freight train collided head on, killed 57 people and stirred anger and mass protests over railway safety standards.

"I can tell you with certainty that the elections will be held in May," Mitsotakis said in interview with Alpha TV, his first since the disaster.

Tens of thousands of people have rallied across Greece over the crash, in the largest street protests the government has faced since being elected in 2019.

Protesters accuse the current government as well as previous governments of the past decade of turning a blind eye to repeated calls by unions over safety shortcomings in the railway, a legacy of Greece's decade long financial crisis which ended in 2018.

The government has mainly blamed human error. Four railway workers, including the duty station master, were detained.

Mitsotakis has apologised for a delayed plan to install safety systems across Greece's 2,500-km (1,550-mile) rail network.

Mitsotakis said visiting the crash scene was "tough" but that he did not consider resigning.

"I aim to win elections again and I believe that we will eventually succeed," he said.

Reporting by Karolina Tagaris, Renee Maltezou, Lefteris Papadimas; editing by Grant McCool

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