Greece is already in the middle of the election campaign, although there is still no date for the parliamentary elections. The legislative period ends regularly in July 2023, but there may already be early elections on April 9th. Two things are already certain: First, the public will not get any answers to the open questions about the wiretapping scandal, which is spreading more and more. And secondly, the election campaign is likely to turn into a mudslinging between the ruling conservative New Democracy and the left-wing Syriza alliance.

This became clear during a three-day debate in the Greek Parliament last week. It was triggered by a motion of no confidence from opposition leader Alexis Tsipras on Wednesday (January 25, 2023). The reason for this was a report by the data protection authority (ADAE) on the wiretapping scandal that has occupied Greece for months.

The agency confirmed that the EYP secret service had wiretapped both Labor Minister Kostas Chatzidakis and five senior military officials, including the Chief of General Staff of the Hellenic Armed Forces, Konstantinos Floros. Months earlier, it had become known that MEP Nikos Androulakis, chairman of the third largest party, PASOK, and two journalists had also been bugged.

When asked why during the debate, MPs and the Greek audience received no answer from Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis. Although he did not deny the surveillance, he did not know anything about it. “The judiciary will clarify the case,” said Mitsotakis simply. Instead, he used the debate to speak at length about the failures of the previous government and scandals in which Syriza politicians were allegedly involved during their 2015-2019 tenure. He accused Syriza leader Tsipras of initiating a political “mud fight” in view of the upcoming parliamentary elections.

For his part, Tsipras called on Parliament to make a decision for or against democracy. He accused Mitsotakis of lying and asked how it could be that the Prime Minister knew nothing about the wiretapping scandal, even though he made the secret service a top priority when he took office in 2019.

After the debate, which was characterized by serious accusations and extreme polarization, all 156 MPs from the ruling party and thus the majority of the 300-member parliament expressed their confidence in Prime Minister Mitsotakis. Even Minister Chatzidakis, himself a victim of the wiretapping operation, was convinced that the prime minister knew nothing.

The Greek population does not share this belief. According to the latest survey by the Athens polling institute Prorata, almost 70 percent of citizens believe that Mitsotakis knew about the wiretapping. More than half of those surveyed find the eavesdropping “wrong” and “damaging for democracy”.

At the same time, the people of Greece are convinced that Mitsotakis has no interest in investigating the wiretapping affair. Nevertheless, the outrage about it is limited. Despite the eavesdropping, Nea Dimokratia still leads Syriza by five percentage points or more, according to opinion polls. Mitsotakis’ party could get between 30 and 33 percent, but that would not be enough to continue governing on its own. So the Conservatives will need a coalition partner.

This is most likely to be the social-democratic PASOK, with which the ND previously governed (2012-2015). But that would presuppose that its chairman, Androulakis, forgives the eavesdropping on his person and trusts his possible coalition partner, which is rather unlikely at the moment.

As a reminder: In July 2022 it became public that the Greek secret service EYP had tapped the telephone connections of PASOK boss Androulakis. Mitsotakis, who claimed he knew nothing about it, nevertheless fired his bureau chief and nephew, Grigoris Dimitriadis, and his intelligence chief, Panagiotis Kontoleon, apparently hoping that the matter would be settled and the discussion quickly faded from public view.

But Androulakis was not the only victim. Two journalists were also wiretapped: Stavros Malichoudis, who had done a lot of research on refugee issues and above all on illegal pushback actions by the Greek coast guard in the East Aegean, and the financial reporter Thanasis Koukakis. However, it was not reported in most Greek media.

After that, the scandal continued to spread. Among those intercepted: members of the armed forces’ command, ministers and journalists.

On January 29, 2023, Documento magazine, which has played a central role in publishing the names of suspected wiretapping victims, ran piquant news on the front page: also Mitsotakis’ sister, Dora Bakogiannis, MP and former Foreign Minister, her son, Kostas Bakogiannis, Mayor of Athens and her daughter Alexia are said to have been wiretapped. They are said to have learned that their cell phones were infected. So far there has been no denial from the family.

Author: Bali Foot (Athen)

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The original to this post “Greece: election campaign could turn into a mud fight” comes from Deutsche Welle.