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20 May, 2024
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Cyprus elections: End of a political era?

Prioritizing power over self-reflection

Marina Economides

Marina Economides

The Intermediate parties are facing survival problems, introspection, and doubts, despite being part of the coalition government.

In May 2021, most parties were nursing their wounds from the parliamentary elections battle, but two were celebrating a significant victory with hidden support. One was ELAM, which managed to secure the fourth position, and the other was Mario Karoyian's Democratic Alliance. The surprising 6% of votes garnered by Mario Karoyian not only caught pollsters off guard but also made other Center parties realize the recipe for Karoyian's success. The key seemed to be a combination of access to power and a well-organized network of personal relationships, which attracted voters seeking stability and influence.

Marinos Sizopoulos, Eleni Theocharous, and especially Nicolas Papadopoulos realized that they were doing something wrong. If some wanted to survive politically, and others wanted to maintain their percentages, they had to ensure their ascent to power this time. Therefore, they backed the favorite - according to polls - in the presidential elections, Nikos Christodoulides, and kept a low profile, waiting for the elections' aftermath to reap the rewards of their choices.

However, if power was supposed to solve the Intermediate parties' long-standing problems, why do the problems increase instead of diminishing, both for themselves and the government?

There are strong opinions within the party against the Christodoulides government, while others want more alignment with the center of power.

There is still a lack of necessary chemistry between Nikos Christodoulides and the cooperating parties. Members of the allied parties feel overlooked and dissatisfied with their role in the government. There is no specific political vision or election program that binds them and keeps them engaged. Nikos Christodoulides, unlike Nikos Anastasiadis, has not established the required relationship, either with cooperating parties or ministers, beyond the Council of Ministers. This lack of coordination sends the message of a disjointed orchestra and causes discomfort among members who feel unheard by the President and unable to serve their constituents with the ease they expected while in power. Additionally, the constant flirtation with DISY creates annoyance. Party leaders like Euthymios Diplaros and Nikos Tornaritis have open lines of communication with the presidential office, whereas leaders of cooperating parties have not achieved the same level of closeness.

Certainly, the lack of coordination and satisfaction, and the increasing introspection, are not the only reasons for the Intermediate parties' paradox - strengthening internal focus while in power. Each party has its reasons for introspection and problems. Nicolas Papadopoulos, for instance, has built a close relationship with Nikos Christodoulides and seems to understand that to govern and pass legislation, he needs the required majority in the Parliament. However, he also had the previous bitter experience of cooperating with these parties during the 2018 presidential elections, which predicted the difficulties they faced. It took months to reach an agreement on the "New Strategy" due to continuous disagreements. Yet, beyond his genuine intention to support the government's work, aligning with DISY helps him with various issues.

In conclusion, the Intermediate parties face challenges in maintaining their political influence and are grappling with introspection and internal disagreements. Nikos Christodoulides' presidency marked the end of the previous way of operation for many parties, ushering in a new political landscape that they have not fully grasped yet.

The presence of DISY in the government prevents Nikos Christodoulides from creating a new party. He aimed to accommodate the disappointed Alarmists who voted for him and also to gain votes from the center. However, DISY, a party that supports government bills, believes it will smooth the situation within its party. Christodoulides was bothered by the distance of his MPs. It is not considered an isolated incident but an ongoing problem.

His relationship with Pavlos Mylonas is not great due to serious political disagreements, while the leadership's approach to Zacharias Koulias is different. Papadopoulos' discomfort in the Parliament was evident when Koulias stated a preference for degradation over democracy. Therefore, DISY's presence is expected to divert attention from Christodoulides' inability to control his party and potentially reduce extortion attempts from MPs towards him and the government.

Nikolas Papadopoulos seemed to have limited control over his parliamentary group, and the situation within the Democratic Rally is not homogenized, despite Marios Karoyian's efforts. DISY and Democratic Alignment are two distinct groups that haven't united over time, partly due to lingering bitterness from Angelos Votsis' sudden move and their different political approaches. There are strong opinions within the party against the Christodoulides government, while others want more alignment with the center of power.

Marios Karoyian also faces competition from DIKO, as their differences have decreased significantly. They target the same electorate and have similar political approaches. If something boosted DISY's votes, it was the common goal of weakening DIKO, which is no longer the case, causing concern among its members. Christodoulides, on the other hand, seeks allies abroad for the Cyprus issue, trying to convince others of our side's readiness for dialogue. Sizopoulos faces political isolation; half of his party is under scrutiny, his close associates have left, and internal issues are a major concern.

Sizopoulos worries about dissidents who left the party, such as Demetris Papadakis, who is creating a new political platform that could compete in the 2024 elections, and the dynamic Kosti Efstathiou, who was expelled but remains politically active. There is concern that EDEK might lose its seat to ELAM this time, as the latter appeals more to economic and Cyprus-related issues. In such an environment, Sizopoulos doesn't seem to benefit from co-governance, and governance is not his priority, but he tries to hide internal issues and declining support.

Most elections lead to the end of a government, but some also signal the end of a political era as we knew it. With Christodoulides' election, the parties have undergone reconfiguration. Each faces its challenges and priorities. The absence of a common vision on the Cyprus issue, economic policy, and environment, as well as the tactic of not aligning with government policies, complicates the future for Christodoulides' allies. Center parties are focused on increasing their presence in positions of power, disregarding the warning signs of internal introspection that have been present for some time and may lead to unpleasant outcomes in 2024.

[This article was translated from its Greek original]

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