The title does not pertain to Hector Malot's novel, "Sans Famille" ("Without Family"). It relates to the response that the President of the Republic had to provide, in answer to a question from an esteemed colleague at "K" newspaper, Marina Oikonomidou, regarding the "nepotism" prevailing in the Presidential Office as a consequence of the appointments made by Nikos Christodoulides himself. It also encompasses the appointments in the Council of Ministers, as a result of dealings with the parties that supported him in the recent presidential elections.
The president heard the question and had a prime opportunity for self-criticism. He could have shown political courage and earned the applause of public opinion. However, in the one minute and twenty-nine seconds that his response lasted, he simply chose to deflect the blame. He deployed a fundamentally flawed argument to persuade that there were no dealings with the parties that supported him, while not uttering a word about the close friends and allies who form the core group of his associates. Within this framework of reasoning, Mr. Christodoulides wasted his time by asserting that "if what you are suggesting about the parties were true, then the parties that supported my candidacy would also agree on matters brought to the House of Representatives." In other words, President Christodoulides told us that there were no transactions with the parties that supported him regarding the selection of individuals who constitute his government, something which, according to him, is evidenced by the fact that they hold different opinions on certain legislations.
...what should undergo a facelift first is not the individuals of the Cabinet, but the prevailing political mentality...
I must say, the approach of the president and the arguments he developed on the matter are interesting. However, with all due respect to the institution he represents, I'm afraid that what he stated is not convincing. After all, only 100 days have passed, and memories are still fresh. Like the case of Anastasia Papadopoulou being removed from the Ministry of Justice by Karoyan, with President Christodoulides telling the president of DIKO, "You saved me." And the case of Yasemides in the Ministry of Finance, for which Marinos Sizopoulos exercised a veto. Also, the case of Deputy Minister Michalis Georgallas, who belonged to Alithia but was proposed by the president of EDEK without consulting Eleni Theocharous.
President Christodoulides may certainly believe that none of these things happened, including the unfortunate appointments in his Cabinet. This is evident from his position in the press conference, which was so misguided that it gave the impression of underestimating the intelligence of everyone who watched the assessment of the first 100 days of his governance. There were indeed transactions with the parties that supported the President of the Republic, and "family" appointments were made. Moreover, if one looks at the closest associates of President Christodoulides, one will find godparents, in-laws, and individuals who maintain a close relationship with the presidential family, as if it were a prerequisite for every appointment.
Amidst all this, the president appears ready to "evaluate" the work of his ministers in early September, 180 days after assuming their duties. I am not in a position to know the objectives of President Christodoulides' announced "evaluation," but his close associates are hinting that he will not hesitate to give a facelift to the government structure by proceeding with a reshuffle.
It is his right and obligation if he perceives that the government lineup is faltering. However, what should undergo a facelift first is not the individuals of the Cabinet, but the prevailing political mentality. So that any new lineup is not the result of transactions between the president and his party partners. Mr. Christodoulides should act accordingly regarding his close associates, rejecting any signs of nepotism.
Therefore, it is up to the president himself to decide whether his inner circle will be a paraphrase of Malot's book, ''Sans Famille'' ("Without Family''). We will continue to do our work, exercising proper criticism and hoping that the president will be able to assemble a solid core of "family-less" associates and provide clear and direct answers in press conferences, without evasions.
[This article was first published in Kathimerini's printed Sunday edition and translated from its Greek original]