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16 June, 2024
 
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The cabinet reshuffle saga is a lesson in governance

The dynamics, departures, and challenges of Cyprus' recent ministerial reshuffle

Marina Economides

Marina Economides

When Nikos Christodoulides was vying for the Presidency last year, the primary question scrutinized was not just his readiness to govern, but also the individuals he would choose to surround himself with. This became evident as he elevated the expectations for his Cabinet, deeming it his inaugural political act and encouraging society to judge him based on this criterion. The bar was set high, and the evolving dynamics of his ministerial selections were consistently revealed with new elements, characteristics, and promises for the prospective Cabinet.

Initially pledging equal gender representation, geographic inclusivity, and the inclusion of figures from diverse societal backgrounds—those excelling internationally but notably excluding any partisan figures—Christodoulides continued to cultivate this narrative. However, what unfolded during the three-day Cabinet formation process between the newly elected President and the supporting party leaders is now a noteworthy tale.

The events that transpired were meant to serve as a lesson for society, highlighting how easily a political figure, portraying themselves as new and untainted, can succumb to becoming entangled in partisan dealings. The backdrop of this Cabinet formation and the ensuing reactions alluded from the outset to a Cabinet with a predetermined expiration date. Not only because Christodoulides frequently invited the DISY party to join the coalition, undermining the other participating parties, but primarily due to his failure to endorse the choices made. Rumors of an imminent reshuffle began circulating only two months after the government's formation.

The first departure was that of Michalis Chatzigiannis, following prevalent rumors of the President's dissatisfaction. Popy Kanari's case is illustrative; she was canceled amidst her dispute with her predecessor, Christina Giannaki, after rumors circulated of their discord. However, the most telling move was the public dismissal of Justice Minister Anna Prokopiou and the Chief of Police. Noteworthy is the term "dismissal," not only due to the leak of a notorious video but also because of the subsequent interview in "F" where Christodoulides expressed dissatisfaction with their handling of the incidents in Chloraka and Limassol.

Evidently, when the President deems his ministers unsuccessful, immediate replacement is imperative. Ministers should be replaced promptly when the President perceives hindrance rather than assistance to the government's work. This should occur quietly, without prior announcements, leaks, or bombastic statements, primarily because the prolonged rumors of a reshuffle render at least half of the Cabinet dysfunctional. Some have proven inadequacies, others have been alienated by the President, and some exhibit insecurity, a consequence of the prevailing belief that the President is ready to sacrifice them easily to deflect attention from his flawed policies.

Cabinet reshuffles are essential for any government facing deterioration or perceived inadequacy. However, the rumored reshuffle provides revealing insights into the character of the President and his approach to governance for the next four years. It serves as a significant admission by President Christodoulides that the government has, until now, struggled to fulfill its role. It is the loudest proof that, in his attempt to salvage his image, gather praise from society for the infamous 18-month period, he is willing to lead the country into ineffectiveness, readily discarding individuals with whom, under normal circumstances, he would overhaul the state.

[This op-ed was translated from its Greek original]

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