Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras on Thursday again brushed off a persistent demand by the opposition for early elections, as his leftist-rightist coalition government continues to face a furious backlash from last month's deadly wildfire in coastal eastern Attica prefecture.
The official death toll, as of Thursday, reached 93.
In a bid to deflect the unrelenting criticism, mainly focusing on the fact that authorities failed to order an evacuation or even properly warn residents of the pine-covered Mati settlement that a fast-moving wildfire was approaching, Tsipras took the opportunity to announce the abolition of the current general secretariat of civil defense, in favor of a new entity he called the "National Service for Emergency Management".
The 44-year-old Greek prime minister said the new entity will be a unified and upgraded organization, which he promises will be headed up by a "person with indisputable experience".
During the same address, Tsipras said the emphasis is "on taking measures, not asking for ballot boxes to be set up on the ashes".
Even before the deadly wildfire, Tsipras and his hard left SYRIZA party trailed main opposition New Democracy (ND) party by double-digit percentage points in practically all mainstream opinion polls. Approval ratings, published after the wildfire, show an even more pronounced damage to the government's image. Tsipras' junior coalition partner, the right-wing AN.EL. party, if polls prove correct, will struggle to re-enter Parliament.
"What's significant is not to find fall guys, but to prove the reasons for this tragedy; to take the necessary measures so that such a catastrophe never occurs again. This is what's important, not to ask for ballot boxes on top of the ashes".