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24 May, 2024
 
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The ten-day stretch that ended DISY's crisis

With an eye on their electoral congress, the right-wing party is now entering a difficult period

Marina Economides

Marina Economides

When Averof Neofytou's disqualification from the second round was locked in on Sunday night, he made sure to call his two rival candidates in time to congratulate them on their victory. But before he left Pindarou to make statements to his staff and actually process the result, he received a message from President Anastasiades to make a first stop at the Presidential Palace. It was known that the President was following the developments with close associates and when the battle was decided, he thought it appropriate to immediately contact Averof Neofytou. The communication was certainly not limited to expressing his congratulations for the struggle he had fought or to saying a few words of consolation for the defeat.  He wanted them to shape the next day together. Averof Neofytou partially understood what was unfolding, as there were more than a few people who told him that the President would take matters into his own hands in the scenario of being eliminated in the second round. But he certainly did not expect, going into his office, that Ionas Nicolaou would be present at their first meeting after the defeat. It was not only the fact that the former Justice Minister had no competent role in the party or in the government. Nor was it only that his relations with the assembly president were never good. It was also the fact that it had long been rumored - and recorded by the K - that in a scenario of defeat, Jonas Nicolaou could possibly be the interim president for DISY in order to avoid discord. The meeting was held under the shadow of the persistent rumor that Nicos Anastasiades was working underground for Christodoulides' candidacy. This, combined with the fact that the President immediately told him that DISY should immediately come out and support Nicos Christodoulides, was a red flag for Neofytou. Especially when Ionas Nikolaou felt comfortable taking the floor and silencing the President. The meeting did not last even ten minutes, with Averof Neofytou - who was accompanied by Petridis and Georgiades, among others - making it clear that this was not the time for such a discussion and leaving the "Hill" immediately.

Ionas was a red flag

"I see your faces...you are sharpening knives," Anastasiades said to executives when they met at the Presidential Office, but he certainly did not expect what would follow in the Politburo.

A little of the understandable stress from the defeat, as well as the President's clumsy attempt to convey the message that DISY has a choice for the second round, persuaded Neofytou. To such an extent that his installation on the staff not only had a surprisingly jubilant atmosphere of victory, but he also managed to announce an electoral convention and make it clear to the rest of the staff's surprised ears that he would again be a candidate for the party's Presidency. "I want you with a smile. Now we begin," was the statement he made to his supporters who gathered at his headquarters as he was leaving. A statement that demonstrated that the serious issues at that moment were beginning for the right-wing party and that Averof Neofytou was preparing to fight a new battle.

The President's fears

The relationship between Anastasiadis and Averof has gone through ups and downs and while the control of the party by the President was taken for granted, the last few days have shown that Averof may now be in control of the game.

In this context, and while on Sunday night it began to leak that frontline cadres would support Andreas Mavroyiannis, Averof Neofytou went to the Presidential Palace the next day, with the President himself already shaken by the leaks. Absent from that crucial session were officials who were strongly positioned against the candidacy of Nicos Christodoulides, such as Constantinos Petrides, while Kasoulides and Anthousis kept a low profile. The President insisted on the need to prevent AKEL from returning to power, as this would invalidate the entire political path of both the party and himself. It is not only the fact that the Anastasiades decade was built on the narrative of 'economy-destroying governance' and prevailed but also the collapse of the perpetual left-right confrontation. Sources present at this meeting stressed that Nicos Anastasiades was very keen to prevent the election of Mavroyiannis. Either because he was disturbed by what the Left-backed candidate had denounced about discussing the two states with him or because he was worried by his mention that he would seek accountability for everyone no matter how high up they were. The fear of AKEL's predominance and emphasis on fighting corruption and corruption was said to be the main reason why Nicos Anastasiades kept the communication channel open with Nicos Christodoulides to ensure that one of his own people would take over and save his posterity.

In order to calm the spirits, calm the anger and find a solution that would not leave either side exposed, the third meeting on how DISY would move forward was also held on Tuesday before the crucial Politburo meeting. A text was presented there with Nicos Anastasiades consenting to a conscience vote, insisting on preventing the "disastrous AKEL government" and expressing his personal disagreement with the statements about "defectors".

"I see your faces, I understand that you are sharpening knives," he said to members of staff who were there and had opposed Nikos Christodoulides from the start, but he certainly did not expect the tension that would unfold in the Politburo in the afternoon. In fact, while he had intended to attend the Politburo to express his views, he received information that there were likely to be hooded men from Larnaca there who might cause trouble. The advice he received was to avoid attending and he did so both for security reasons and because he realized, albeit belatedly, that the scene would not lift him.

Who controls DISY?Supporters from the stands came to the Conference Center organized by a government official to send a message of support to Averof Neophytou and to warn the President.

A government official organized supporters from the stands in the Conference Hall to send a message of support to Averof Neofytou and to warn the President.

The truth is that Averof Neofytou made it clear to his close entourage early on that even if he did not advance to the second round, he would ensure that Nikos Christodoulides lost. However, until Saturday night, an overwhelming majority of people believed that Nicos Anastasiades fully controlled DISY. This perception persisted even in Pindarou. It was also clear during the election campaign, as evidenced by Averof Neofytou's public appeal to President Anastasiades to clarify which side he is on.  This is because he had long insisted on his institutional role while also giving the impression, with his repeated statement "everyone is my close associate," that he was disqualifying the former Foreign Minister's vote. Only in the final stretch did the President express his preference for Averof Neofytou, urging "those who love him to support Averof Neofytou" because "his governance continues" through him. This, combined with the two's warm embraces at election rallies, gave the impression that any underground rivalry had ended.

But how did we get from embraces and vows to public squabbles? The President's decision to immediately seek support for Nikos Christodoulides confirmed many within DISY's suspicion that the President was playing a double game with Nikos Christodoulides and did not strongly support Averof Neofytou and, by extension, his party.

However, what happened last week demonstrated that Averof Neofytou not only has a strong stomach, but he has also managed to control a party that initially viewed him with suspicion during the election campaign. We say this with skepticism because Nicos Anastasiades intervened twice to prevent DISY members from running against him for President. However, if Averof Neofytou gained anything from the election campaign, it is a significant influence within his party and new allies. There was a very well-organized presence of supporters outside the Conference Hall - they had been invited by a government official - who, while applauding Averof Neofytou on his arrival, had also warned that they would not accept a "vote for a renegade".  A well-planned and thought-out verbal gesture that conveyed the message that they had a good idea of what they were going to say. That wasn't all, as frontline officials, Anastasiades government ministers, and especially members of Averof Neofytou's inner circle began calling Andreas Mavroyiannis' staff on Tuesday afternoon to express their support. The flailing of those who supported Christodoulides and the applause for defectors in the Politburo was a message to Nicos Anastasiades that if he persisted, he would lose the battle.  However, the President of the Republic intended to send a statement signed by ministers, former MPs, and government officials openly supporting Christodoulides' candidacy and speaking out against the possibility of an AKEL government, especially after the Politburo, where top officials, particularly Averof Neofytou, implied support for Andreas Mavroyiannis. After the President changed his mind, Ionas Nikolaou, Nikos Tornaritis, Prodromos Prodromou, Konstantinos Ioannou, and Nikos Nouris, who was with him in Brussels, came out alone.

The cherry on the cake is called Katie

The President of the Republic, however, has been working behind the scenes in recent days for the election of Nikos Christodoulides. The newly elected president's thanks during the proclamation was no coincidence and for many, he is considered the winner of the election, both because he elected the person he wanted and because he showed that he is in full control of the game on the alarm base. The issue, however, is that this ten-day period has brought well-hidden tensions to the fore, culminating in the statements of the daughter of DISY founder Glafkos Clerides' daughter, Katie.  The first blow to the relationship between Averof Neofytos and Nicos Anastasiades was Mrs. Cleridou's decision to accompany the President of DISY as he exercised his electoral rights the following day. Her post on the eve of the elections, in which she urged support for Andreas Mavroyiannis and accused the Anastasiades government of corruption, was the final blow. She made a move that President Anastasiades took notice of and she was called a porter of a name for her vulgar remarks. After the alleged rift between Averof and Anastasiades, it should be noted that the latter is anticipated to interfere in the internal party elections by endorsing Averof Neofytou's rival. Already, by Sunday afternoon, his intention was to send a letter to Averof Neofytou asking him to extend the electoral congress to April and May. 

[This article was translated from its Greek original]

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