“The Turkish provocations are putting to the test those public handshakes, all that big talk about defence, and all the front page headlines” said AKEL leader Andros Kyprianou two weeks ago while others were talking of a second invasion as Fatih was sailing into our EEZ.
Of course, he had all the time in the world to criticize and scorn the latest moves by the government that were meant to show off as well as the obsession of those in power who are buying and selling the idea that our foreign friends will bend over backwards for us. Of course, this should wait for a bit later and not now that Turkey got in our face. Because let’s face it, any show of contempt at the very moment that your country is under attack would be akin to reinforcing the notion that the party smirks in triumph and shows pettiness at a most difficult time.
But while Fatih was in our Exclusive Economic Zone, threatening to drill, the president of the Republic failed to stand tall. But he did stand in front of a podium, when he was addressing a Disy party convention, basically proving to the world that he was making a conscious choice to revert back to being a partisan of the old guard rather than president of all Cypriots.
This effort to present Kızılyürek as someone who would undermine the Republic of Cyprus and its interests, really, does it do anyone any good?
This would make him a party leader who aims to invoke sentiment and use the power of slogans to get a cheer from the audience, while also polarizing the public with his rhetoric at any cost. And we are not saying this because he made a point to refer to the Mari explosion to excite the Disy base. We are saying this because he managed to inject his poison into a society already divided and polarized. As president, who he had a public mandate to settle the Cyprus problem, he ought to have known that talking down on Turkish Cypriot participation in the elections would stir emotions.
Because when the president fails to meet a high standard and acts as if he is still a party leader who only thinks about political survival, then what can we expect from his party and its candidates? Possibly the same, if not worse. That’s because some of his rhetoric took hold in Disy as well, a party supposedly standing for patriotic realism, with MEP candidate Eleni Stavrou taking it to a whole new level with her attack on Niyazi Kızılyürek, whom she essentially described as Turkey’s footman.
And here is the hypocrisy, because Mr. Kızılyürek is no stranger to Disy party and its members. They used to call on him to give talks about a federal Cyprus. They used to congratulate him for his dedication to the vision of reunification. He was a close associate of Disy party founder and leader Glafcos Clerides. And president Anastasiades even managed to appoint Kızılyürek, whose views and work had been out in the open, as a member of the Geostrategic Council. Such an appointment was also very telling of the trust they had in him, given that as a member he had access to sensitive and even top secret information regarding our national issue.
Of course, Niyazi Kızılyürek is no sacred cow either and he should not be immune from criticism. As a candidate running for a seat in the European parliament, he has to answer questions about his position on the Cyprus problem, his ideological leanings, his thoughts on the European Union, but also his plans should he be elected. This is required of all candidates, but targeting him is quite something else. This effort to present him as someone who would undermine the Republic of Cyprus and its interests, really, does it do anyone any good?
The elections will be over in a few days and base politics will take their place, along with abstention, after all ballots are counted. But one thing that cannot be measured is the damage to the rapprochement effort caused by this drawn-out argument. The damage might even be irreparable in such a toxic election season. So they better keep this in mind the day after the election or the next time they try to lecture us on patriotic realism or any assurances that they are working for a Cyprus settlement.
The article was first published by Kathimerini Cyprus on 12 May 2019