Is AKEL history or can it make history?

Is AKEL history or can it make history?

In the most critical elections facing Greek Cypriots, scheduled for February 2013, nobody is happy or certain of the current candidates.

The recently-forged alliance of Democratic Rally (DYSI) and Democratic parties (DIKO) for the election of frontrunner Nicos Anastasiades is nothing more than a power-winning strategy as the two parties or political successors of the EOKA and EOKA-B gangs, respectively, have big and permanent differences on many issues, especially in regards to the Cyprus problem. House speaker and DIKO leader Marios Karoyan, an Armenian, needs to be in government after the elections both to save his party but also to personally remain afloat financially.

DYSI has a popular backing of around 34 percent. DIKO’s electoral support has been hovering around 16 percent. Yet, the latest polls show a sharp disparity between simple mathematics and its reflection in votes. The combined vote of the two hardly equals 40 percent, far short of a straight victory for Anastasiades. Some one-fifth of the two parties’ supporters are apparently unwilling to vote for Anastasiades. Who are they going to vote for?

On the other hand, communist-turned-conservative presidential contender George Lilikas, with the socialist EDEK supporting him in the race, claims that he will make it to the runoff, leaving AKEL’s candidate, Stavros Malas, out of the race. But so far in polls, Lilikas has never been above 14 percent support, while support for Malas has been trailing at around 27 percent, which is also way down from AKEL’s traditional standing of around 33 percent. AKEL’s well-managed mechanisms of sourcing its votes from door to door guarantee that Malas might indeed be in the runoff election, but he is unlikely to beat Anastasiades. It will be very hard indeed to convince voters to support a young medical researcher with no proven political skills and knowledge of the current massive problems at a time when any rational voter would like to have a candidate of indisputable experience and knowledge, good relations with all other political camps and be well-known internationally.

We are still four and a half months away from the elections, so we have not seen the end of this unfolding thriller yet. AKEL is the oldest political party of Greek Cypriots and the most organized one by far. It preceded DYSI (formed in 1976) by no less than 50 years and it has been in government in one way or another from 1960 onwards more than any other party. It would be a mistake to count it out so soon. The theory in Cyprus that AKEL aims to lose this election to the duo of Anastassiades and Karoyan is a light one and cannot be taken seriously. Doing so, AKEL would basically condemn itself to being out of government for as long as 20 odd years – two terms for Anastasiades and two terms for Karoyan in the presidency.

The camps that oppose Anastasiades and Karoyan in one way or another easily total more than 50 percent, which means something is amiss. For those interested in the Greek Cypriot election of 2013, my own advice is to keep their eyes on AKEL, especially after the Demetris Christofias presidency, which left even AKEL itself unhappy. A transformed AKEL into a less dogmatic party without communism’s faded allure, but one that is more socialist and eager to accept a back seat as part of wider alliance can still deliver a winning punch in the most critical upcoming presidential elections... So, stay tuned…