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20 July, 2024
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The self-sabotage of a President in less than 100 days

Examining President Christodoulides' early performance and the implications of cronyism in government

Pavlos Xanthoulis

Pavlos Xanthoulis

Nicos Anastasiades, undeniably one of the prominent political figures in the region, has faced criticism after many years in the Presidency, which, in some cases, rightly exceeded the boundaries of political deconstruction. His successor in power, President Christodoulides, although not yet considered a heavyweight in the political scene, has achieved something unprecedented: flirting with political deconstruction while being in a leadership position for only 89 days. Within this short period, President Christodoulides has (unfortunately, I must say) managed to create the impression of a centralizing leader who has formed a political circle around him, with individuals from his family environment. Consequently, before reaching a hundred days in the Presidency, Mr. Christodoulides is certainly better known for "cronyism" rather than the initiatives he has launched. He appointed his close friend as the director of his diplomatic office and another close friend as the deputy minister alongside the President, while his brother-in-law became the director of his office. It is certainly legitimate for a President to appoint individuals he trusts as his collaborators, but it is not acceptable for all those he trusts to be relatives, close friends, or have a connection with the presidential family. This creates an impression that is difficult to overturn, implying a certain level of political insecurity.

At the same time, the Cabinet resembles a playground. Michalis Hatzigiannis obviously believes that he has taken up the position of Deputy Minister of Culture to sing at the birthdays of political leaders and issue announcements. Deputy Minister of Tourism, Kostas Koumis, hires 19-year-old assistants at the recommendation of someone "very close to him," as he himself stated. As for Deputy Minister of Innovation, Filippos Hatzizacharias, with his knowledge, has managed to enhance the image of his predecessor Kyriakos Kokkinos, who is considered a "giant" of the digital era compared to the current deputy minister, although in his own days, the vaccination portal either worked or didn't respond to two out of three requests.

Consequently, before reaching a hundred days in the Presidency, Mr. Christodoulides is certainly better known for "cronyism" rather than the initiatives he has launched.

This is (again, unfortunately) the general image of the government, with the majority of ministers appointed by President Christodoulides being inexperienced and operating in very shallow waters. They create the impression that they were chosen and appointed for exactly this reason—to be easily expendable so that nobody would scrutinize them when they are replaced, and mainly to not overshadow the person who appointed them. However, what President Christodoulides obviously hasn't realized is that his faceless government, with few exceptions, contributes daily to its own dismantling, just like himself with his choices. If he wants to overturn the image of the "cronyism," centralization, and amateurism that tends to solidify in people's consciousness, he will have to make significant changes. Either he should say mea culpa and send half of his ministers home long before they complete their 18 months and secure their benefits, including their cronies. Or he will have to make groundbreaking decisions on other major issues, for which the initial responsibility may not lie with him, but he will inevitably bear it if he remains inactive. For example, he could clean up the mess in Cypriot football, seeking the contribution of Europol, following unprecedented allegations that implicate football institutions within and outside Cyprus. Or he could follow the EU's recommendation to permanently and irrevocably terminate the golden passport program without any loopholes for pending applications. Or he could summon the Attorney General to finally deliver the report on the surveillance van, which the European Parliament is requesting. Ideally, he should do all of these things. And give a significant facelift to the government, demonstrating the ability to recognize mistakes and take responsibility. And adopt an uncompromising approach to issues that expose Cyprus, both internally and within the EU. Mr. Christodoulides should dare to do so because, otherwise, the dismantling will "bathe" him much sooner than his predecessor. And the responsibility will be solely his. 

[This article was first published in Kathimerini's printed Sunday edition and translated from its Greek original]

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