The race to the hill got a lot more serious over the weekend after Archbishop Chrysostomos likened independent presidential candidate Nikos Christodoulides to politically unbowed Makarios, prompting a swift response from ruling party Dysi leader Averof Neophytou.
In an interview with daily Politis, Chrysostomos said Christodoulides was enjoying popular support similar to that of Archbishop Makarios, the first president of the Republic of Cyprus.
The high-churchman was drawing comparisons between Makarios and Christodoulides but also clarified he was not supporting any of the candidates in the 2023 election.
Dysi founded to go up against Makarios' populism
“I am not close to anyone but I can see that since the Makarios era, only Christodoulides has popular support,” Chrysostomos said.
Neophytou, who is also running for president, said the archbishop had the right as a citizen to express his opinion but went on to point out his party had been established to counter the “populist methods and practices” of Makarios.
“We took note of [Chrysostomos’] reference to Makarios’ methods, attitudes, and practices. He took us back to that period. I want to point out that Dysi was founded exactly to go up against those kinds of attitudes and practices,” Neophytou said.
'A man with popular support has power. Let parliament try to vote in a law that the government doesn’t want. If 10,000 people gather outside parliament, what will happen?'
Archbishop Makarios, the “Father of the Nation” who became the primate of the autocephalous Church of Cyprus in 1950, was simultaneously President from 1960 until his death in 1977. He was widely known to have had a hold on Greek Cypriot politics that was centered on a loose coalition, where no party could ever get enough seats in parliament to win a clear majority.
Political pundits say Christodoulides, who served as foreign minister after President Nicos Anastasiades got elected for a second term, could face big challenges if he became president because he would not enjoy support from lawmakers.
But Chrysostomos says this was never a problem for Makarios.
“A man with popular support has power. Let parliament try to vote in a law that the government doesn’t want. If 10,000 people gather outside parliament, what will happen?” the Archbishop wondered.
The head of the church says he advised Christodoulides to be careful not to fall into a political trap.
Christodoulides has been accused of plagiarism when he announced last month he was running for office, with pundits pointing to copy-paste one-liners lifted from texts of older speeches by candidates and aired during his half-hour pre-recorded address on YouTube.
“I was watching you bro and you were talking for half an hour. So ten minutes wasn’t enough?” said the archbishop to Christodoulides according to Politis.
“You better watch out for any more traps from here on because you have an asset that others don’t: you have popular support,” Chrysostomos said.
Christodoulides, who officially still remains a member of Dysi, has welcomed support from voters across the political spectrum.
“He is an independent candidate, he’s not running on a Dysi ticket,” the archbishop said.
Christodoulides’ campaign has launched discussions with other parties but campaign advisors remained focused on reaching voters based on issues rather than political affiliation.
“I wasn’t born yesterday, I told him” Chrysostomos recounted, saying he had told the former minister he would not have been elected archbishop if he ever listened to his communications specialist.
Chrysostomos draws response from ruling party after likening independent candidate's core qualification to Makarios