THE campaign for Sunday’s legislative elections appears to have turned nasty, as a heated exchange between AKEL leader Andros Kyprianou and his DIKO counterpart Nicolas Papadopoulos during a televised debate between them on Wednesday night, also featuring DISY leader Averof Neophytou, spilled over into Thursday.
Kyprianou challenged his two ideological rivals to retract claims they made against the AKEL-backed previous government’s handling of the economy.
During discussion of the Cyprus problem in the debate, Papadopoulos enraged Kyprianou when he claimed that AKE was trying to resurrect the 2004 Annan plan, not publicly but “behind closed doors”.
The communist leader lost his cool and fired back that DIKO’s leader never forgave AKEL for not supporting his father, the late former president Tassos Papadopoulos, for re-election in the 2008 presidential elections.
But the quarrel between the two men soon crossed over into discussion of the economy, when both Neophytou and Papadopoulos claimed former President Demetris Christofias and his finance minister Charilaos Stavrakis said that the global economic crisis would “bypass us” and “leave Cyprus unscathed”.
In turn, Kyprianou denied the two men ever said this and charged that Neophytou and Papadopoulos had some explaining to do for their insistence that then governor of the Central Bank of Cyprus Athanasios Orphanides, since thought to have executed his oversight duties poorly, be re-appointed by Christofias.
“On October 2, 2008, Charilaos Stavrakis said that ‘to the extent that the ongoing crisis drags out for a long time, it is only natural that an open economy like that of Cyprus, which is dependent on tourism, foreign investments, and trade, is impacted’,” Kyprianou said.
“On October 14, 2008, Demetris Christofias said ‘hopefully this crisis will not hit our country; at this stage we feel unscathed, and I want to believe that international recovery will leave Cyprus unscathed’”.
Kyprianou contrasted these remarks with Neophytou’s claims from October 3, 2008, that “this year things are going very well, but based on overconsumption. These things will impact us, too.”
And Papadopoulos, he noted, had said on October 29, 2008: “Yes, our economy will be impacted, but certainly not our financial system, which is one of the most resilient in the world”.
AKEL’s leader also referenced Orphanides, who had said in April, 2011, that the Cypriot banking system “can take a large ‘haircut’ on Greek bonds […] it has a strong capital base to absorb a shock”.
The infamous ‘haircut’ of Greek privately-held debt would go on to spark huge capital shortfalls in Cyprus two largest lenders, Bank of Cyprus and Laiki, with the latter being folded into the former and the seizure of uninsured deposits at both.
“For his astuteness, Messrs Averof Neophytou and Nicolas Papadopoulos had insisted that he be re-appointed, with Mr Neophytou threatening that his replacement would ‘shake the Eurosystem’, while Mr Papadopoulos ran around news shows presenting ‘8 + 1 reasons why Orphanides should remain’,” Kyprianou charged.
But the criticism hardly swept Papadopoulos off message, while Neophytou did not even bother to respond.
“In his comments on the economy, Andros Kyprianou completely contradicted Andros Kyprianou,” Papadopoulos said in response.
“Merely reading my statement, which Kyprianou cited, confirms two things: first, that I had predicted that the crisis would impact our economy as early as 2008, and, second, that I supported our country’s financial system, as was my duty.”
“But contrary to myself, Mr Andros Kyprianou and Mr Demetris Christofias believed that the crisis would not touch Cyprus, and at the same time shattered our country’s financial system. But Mr Kyprianou is right on one count: I failed to predict the extent and magnitude of AKEL government’s mishandling [of the economy] in 2011.”