Talking down under: Greek PM ‘discovers’ South Zealand

Greece and New Zealand on a world map. Photo: Groubani at English Wikipedia / CC BY-SA 3.0

Greek social media users have spent the week laughing at Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, who credited a fictional country for its efforts against coronavirus during a May 25 TV interview.

In the interview with journalist Mara Zaharea on STAR TV, the Prime Minister said his own country's successes battling COVID-19 had put it in a group of countries that included “Singapore, Australia (and) South Zealand” who were sharing advice and suggestions on how to re-open the economy.

The Prime Minister's blunder soon went viral on social media, with users asking questions such as, “which of the two Zealands is the best”, or if the PM had confused the N-word before “Zealand” with the Greek word “Notia”, meaning “South.”

A “laughing stock” on Twitter again

It is not the first time that a Greek PM's on-camera gaffes have become national talking points. Predecessors Costas Simitis, George Papandreou and Alexis Tsipras had already established a rich tradition of public speaking fails.

Social media users were quick to troll Mitsotakis for the blunder:

Ο Κυριάκος είπε ότι η χώρα συνεργάζεται, μεταξύ άλλων, με τη… Νότιο Ζηλανδία!
Ξέσπασε εμφύλιος εκεί και χωρίστηκε η χώρα στη μέση;

- Dimitris Soultas – Facebook, May 25th, 2020

Kyriakos [Mitsotakis] said that the country cooperates, among others, with…South Zealand!

Is a civil war taking place there and the country was cut in the middle?

When you recite parrot-fashion without having mastered the text, you see “N. Zelandia” and you say “South Zealand”.

-Kyriakos, there is no South Zealand.
-And what is there?
-New Zealand.
-And the Old one, where is it? North or South?

Write for him the full name of the country in the auto cue or his notes.
He cannot even say his own name correctly without help. #SouthZealand #Mitsotakis

Greek PM Kyriakos Mitsotakis photoshopped in the “Who wants to be a millionaire” format. The question reads: “What goes before Zealand in a sentence? A. South-New B. North. C. South. D. New”. Photo tweeted by user @Athyrostomix.

In this tweet, the user mocks Mitsotakis’ high upbringing and education — he comes from one of the most established and prominent families in Greek politics.

He was sent to study at Harvard, they paid so much money, that others need a whole lifetime to earn, so that he can say “New Zealand” as “South Zealand”! Primary school kids listen to him and drop dead laughing. Long live our Leader, our EXCELLENT KYRIAKOS!!! HE'S WHAT WE DESERVE!!!

User AnnaKonda made fun of the alleged “Mitsotakis jinx“:

So, is this a simple coincidence?
Earthquake in South Zealand, 5,2 R, today early in the morning

The center-right New Democracy party led by Kyriakos Mitsotakis won the General Elections held in Greece in summer 2019, defeating its main opponent Syriza and its leader, former Greek PM Alexis Tsipras.

The COVID-19 pandemic is just one of a list of challenges facing the government. Others include the refugee and migrant crisis, tricky foreign politics, and a still-struggling economy that has taken its toll on public health and education.

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