Can Papadopoulos Jr. make a difference?
With the junior coalition member Democratic Party (DIKO) electing to its leadership Nicolas Papadopoulos, the son of the late President Tassos Papadopulos who earned the title “Mr. No,” with his fierce opposition to the 2004 Annan Plan, might create an added complication to the already deadlocked Cyprus talks.
It was a razor-thin victory for Papadopoulos Jr. He received 51 percent of the vote or just 546 votes more than that which went to incumbent Marios Garoyian. This result also demonstrated that most probably the fight between the hardliners and the even stronger hardliners within DIKO that has been continuing since the December 2008 death of Papadopoulos Sr. has not yet ended. Still, the last remarks before the vote, both candidates pledged to let election time contentions remain in the ballot box.
The blood feud between the two rival wings within DIKO and, consequently a leading DIKO member refusing to support Garoyian in the vote for parliament speakership resulted in the precious seat going to Ioannakis Omiriu, the leader of the Movement for Social Democracy (EDEK). Indeed, there were speculations before the DIKO vote that should Papadopoulos lose the contest, his group would abandon DIKO, and together with “allies” in EDEK form a new political group. Would Garoyian abandon the battle, accept defeat though he lost leadership with a negligible 546 votes? What would be the fallout of the continued tensions between the winner and the loser of DIKO on the Anastasiades presidency? Papadopoulos and his campaign executives were keen in stressing during the campaign that DIKO would respect the coalition accord with President Nikos Anastasiades and as long as he remained loyal to the term of the deal, DIKO would not withdraw its much needed support from the government. Indeed, it was under pressure from that flank of the party, that in writing the coalition protocol the former DIKO chief Garoyian, an Armenian Cypriot, insisted on a set of terms under which President Anastasiades has been unable to continue the talks from where they were left off by his predecessor socialist Demetris Christofias.
It is at least obvious now that Anastasiades, who maneuvered like a belly dancer over the past many weeks to wait for the outcome of the coalition partner DIKO’s convention before engaging himself in any way in a new Cyprus-talks exercise, will be less comfortable now. He at least will constantly feel the threat of Papadopoulos to withdraw from the government. Could he now steer anywhere close to a federation with strong federated units and a weak central government he is believed to be preferring over a resolution with a rotating presidency, cross-voting and such “lunacies” of the Christofias era? Difficult, at least.
The period ahead will be even more difficult for Anastasiades if he really wanted to make it into history as the Greek Cypriot leader to have solved the Cyprus problem. Papadopoulos Sr. was talking about a resolution with the “right content.” That is, a resolution bringing an end to Turkish Cypriot presence on the island by melting them in the “Cyprus nation,” through osmosis. Papadopoulos Jr. is now stressing he would work for a resolution “with the right content.” That is, of course, another way of saying he is opposed to a compromise deal. Now the question? Since he has assumed new party leadership and prospects of further rising in politics are in the horizon, can Papadopoulos Jr. surprise everyone, abandon his father’s hardline rhetoric and contribute to a compromise resolution? Can he make a difference? Very unlikely!