“You know why” was the nuanced slogan of DIKO party MP candidate Fytos Constantinou who was running his election campaign in 2011. The catchphrase was simple and smart according to communication experts, as it was sending the message to all those who benefited from his presence in the Defence House committee during his previous term and would be inclined to vote for him again.
Some ridiculed him for being so plain but others, who know a thing or two about politics, thought he was articulating Cypriot political reality in the best way possible. Such a reality, of course, that has nothing to do with connecting views and positions of parties and voters based on political ideology and substance.
Was this detachment maybe due to a weird bug going around just before the crisis and subsequent bubble burst? Just recently, in late December, Paralimni mayor Theodoros Pirillis dispatched a formal letter to his party headquarters on Pindarou Street, notifying the leadership of his decision to leave DISY.
The whole thing boiled down to a disagreement over the appointment of Savvas Perdios as deputy minister of tourism. But the objections had nothing to do with politics, that is, they were not based on whether Perdios was qualified for the job, if he was a shoe-in because of his family name and connections within the hotel industry, or even for the fact that Perdios supported the Anastasiades presidential ticket.
In fact, the gripe had everything to do with the fact that some were being left out. And in this particular case it was about Pirillis’ own people, as he had said that the district of Famagusta “is out of the loop away from where decisions are made” and others will be “making decisions for us without our having a say in the matter.”
People were just looking to get favours and when this was not possible they would resort to threats of voter abstention or even voting against the system
These are rather odd reasons but should we perhaps take a closer look? The resignation from party membership was the result of pressure on the mayor from active groups in his jurisdiction, DISY voters who felt they were being elbowed and for this exact reason they were either flirting with ELAM or threatening to punish the government at the polls. Would he then sit around with his hands tied and watch his political weight take a hit?
It is doubtful whether the move managed to reassure those who reacted in Famagusta district, especially since one and a half months later DISY would have another fire to put out and once again without political underpinnings.
The stance taken during a recent football crisis by former DISY MP Andreas Michaelides, ex coach of Apollon football club and current president of Cyprus Sports Organization, was enough to cause a rift in DISY following a decision to punish Anorthosis football club.
This was such a breach that reignited threats over blacklisting party candidates and switching votes over to ELAM. After all, it was not by accident that local DISY in Famagusta scrambled to show support for Anorthosis in a desperate effort to diffuse the situation and try to stop voter switching just before the upcoming elections.
It is clear that DISY won’t be able to close the ELAM chapter without hurting, as the ruling party itself is not without blame. Of course, one shouldn’t add insult to injury as the saying goes and this is precisely the reason why AKEL is monitoring the situation with silent guilt. After all, memories are still fresh of organised Omonia football fans marching towards party headquarters to demand that the club’s weaning take place.
Fresh are also the wounds of division within the team, with a split constantly being on the minds of AKEL operatives and what impact it might have on the party.
Against the system on the rise
This pretty much sums up why people ought not to be shocked as those against the system are on the rise. That is, ELAM will be content even with coming in third place because an entire society never cultivated a political ideology foundation that would allow people to connect their votes to their beliefs. People were just looking to get favours and when this was not possible they would resort to threats of voter abstention or even voting against the system.
Of course, this is the doing of political parties themselves that have been giving out favours all these years. In an era where footballisation, political favours, and wobbly policies have been serving everyone, what would have been the reason for them to take on the big and important issues? What incentive would they have for educating their constituents?
But today? Today we have no right to be shocked when we see the alt right being bolstered in front of our eyes. That’s because you and I know the reasons that led things to a culture filled with underclass politics and the underclass vote.
The article was first published by Kathimerini Cyprus on 3 March 2019