Decision time in southern Cyprus

Decision time in southern Cyprus

The presidential elections in Greek Cyprus are ever more interesting for various reasons. Three camps have already formed. One is the Democratic Rally Party (DISI) supporting the incumbent president (and its former leader), Nicos Anastasiades, the second is a grouping of three center-right parties having joined and expressed support for Democratic Party (DIKO) leader Nikolas Papadopoulos (yes, the son of former EOKA member and late former President Tassos Papadopoulos) and the traditional communist party of Cyprus, the Progressive Party of Working People (AKEL), which is still trying to decide who to support in a debate that is becoming a veritable Rubik’s Cube through a maze of agonizing options and probabilities of success and failure.

Anastasiades has already been campaigning for re-election for months using and even fabricating events and “progress” in the ongoing Cyprus talks by turning the Cyprus problem into his political weapon.

No wonder Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (KKTC) President Mustafa Akıncı has been furious with him for some time and has increasingly lost all faith in him.

Under the current political climate in southern Cyprus, due to a radical erosion of confidence in his capability to deliver any sort of remedy to any of the daunting tasks faced by Greek Cypriots, Anastasiades has very little prospect of re-election. Definitely, even if he scores a miraculous electoral success no one anticipates, he is definitely not the one who might solve the Cyprus problem. 

At 15 percent, DIKO’s Papadopoulos has two positives in his favor with all else being negative: His last name and pockets deep enough to finance his campaign, which he has started already ahead of the pack. The Papadopoulos family, through its Leventis relationship as the owner of Coca Cola in Nigeria, Greece and other countries, is said to be pocketing no less than 130 million euros every year through share dividends.

Even if Papadopoulos pockets a “mere” 15 million every year, he has amassed a fortune enough to run in many campaigns which his opponents do not have. A case in point is his alliance with EDEK, which sits at 4.8 percent and is a fervent supporter of his drive to be president. Papadopoulos simply paid EDEK’s debts totaling 880,000 euros and brought them on board.

The new “Solidarity” party, which has 4.5 percent support and which is headed by Eleni Theocharous, is also on board with Nikolas to both share in a possible victory’s spoils and cause maximum damage to her archenemy, Anastasiades.

The Green Party is cunningly postponing any decision until October on who to join.

Giorgos Lillikas (Citizens’ Alliance at 5 percent) has been wooing AKEL for months but knowing him well (he started his career with them!), AKEL does not trust him for his quasi nationalist positions away from the bi-zonal, bi-communal federation being discussed for 40 years… He is running as an independent aiming to stretch the dilemma for AKEL as much as possible and even if he fails to be chosen by them, is already looking at the day after the elections, banking on the possibility that Anastasiades’ possible re-election would allow him to harvest great numbers of disenchanted voters from both AKEL and the center parties’ alliance.

AKEL made a mess of the last presidential elections when it chose a research doctor who specializes in testing laboratory rats, parading him around as an “independent” against Anastasiades. The latter duly won the runoff election hands down, landing him in the president’s seat when even Anastasiades himself never believed he would become president.

AKEL’s choice and campaign were a sheer disaster in all respects, presenting a case study on how to lose an election. After that botched election, AKEL never recovered, receiving another jolt last year with its very poor results in the parliamentary elections.  

Its current choice list has three names, a former Coca Cola executive, Mike Spanos (after his marriage to the daughter of Coca Cola’s owner!), who has no affiliation to anything an AKEL voter could identify with; Kikis Kazamias, an amiable, soft-spoken communist who is invoking health problems in order to avoid his selection amid the last election’s failed bid; as well as Dr. Stavros Malas. Spanos was the AKEL secretary general’s own personal choice.

Andros Kyprianou, AKEL’s chief, stuck with him until the end in 2013 and lost the election, with AKEL seeing its electoral share dipping way below its regular scores of 30 percent and above. AKEL’s chief already seems to have chosen the newcomer Spanos, but it is almost impossible that he will manage to obtain all the AKEL votes and steal from other parties to clinch the presidency. 

Recent reports of AKEL beginning to consider the most experienced diplomat/politician, George Iacovou, who fulfills the party’s own guidelines of ability, morality, experience, vast global contacts at the highest level and successful collaboration with AKEL in the past seem to be the only rational choice if it really wishes to unseat Anastasiades. But in the event of failure,  Kyprianou should be ready to assume the responsibility for a new thunderous defeat and resign.

Rumors have it that the Anastasiades camp ran some polls and surveys of its own a few months ago with him running against three alternative candidates, i.e., Papadopoulos, Spanos and Iacovou... Iacovou was seen to be the only one who could beat him to the presidency, proving that voters are fed up with unqualified presidential candidates being shoved down their throats by political parties who have failed to rise to the current circumstances of the Cyprus negotiations that are dead in the water even if Anastasiades keeps coming back with ludicrous and unacceptable “breakthrough proposals” to Akıncı.

The time for experiments has come to an end for AKEL and its leadership. Another defeat may firmly place AKEL on the path to becoming Cyprus’ version of mainland Greece’s PASOK, which descended from the heights of government to an almost insignificant political party at about only 5 percent...

It’s decision time for all in the Greek Cypriot community, who have been showing their frustration and agony with presidential candidates who have been cooked up by the parties and their own personal agendas...

AKEL’s peculiar new experiments are, again, impressive and perhaps a sign of its own gradual, steady decline.

Ultimately, this will directly hurt the probability of reaching a solution to the Cyprus problem, forcing Turkey and Turkish Cypriots to pursue a much-awaited and much-speculated Plan B.