Two Diko members announced their intention of leaving the party following its support of far-right Elam’s proposal to introduce an annual commemoration in public schools of the January 1950 Enosis (Union) referendum.
The first announcement came on Tuesday night from former municipal councillor Yiannis Armeftis, who had served two terms as Diko’s Limassol municipal councillor between 2007 and 2016, and was also a candidate in last December’s municipal elections.
“In reaction to the latest developments and statements, I place myself outside the Democratic Party until its leadership changes,” Armeftis said on his Facebook page.
Diko, from a democratic party, he said, has turned into a “stooge of nationalism and extremism”. He said that he would issue an announcement later in the week.
Another Diko member, Aglandjia municipal councillor Marinos Cleanthous, replied under the Armefti’ post that he would follow suit.
“We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people,” Cleanthous said, quoting Martin Luther King.
The controversial proposal to introduce an annual commemoration in public schools of the Enosis referendum, in which 96 per cent of Greek Cypriots voted their preference for the island to be annexed to Greece, was voted by parliament on Friday.
In a plenary vote, just 19 votes from the smaller parties – excluding ruling Disy, which abstained, and main opposition Akel, which opposed – were enough for the proposal, tabled by nationalist Elam deputy Linos Papayiannis, to be approved.
The proposal made it to the plenum through the education committee, with three votes from Disy and one each from Diko, the Citizens’ Alliance, and Solidarity.
The desire for ‘enosis’, or union with Greece, is considered one of the main reasons for the breakdown of the Republic of Cyprus established in 1960.
But Edek too has been subject to criticism from some its members and supporters as its MPs upvoted Elam’s proposal.
Edek MEP Demetris Papadakis had said right after the vote that the move was upvoted by some out of fear of being accused of not being Greek enough, by “those who identified themselves with the worst years of the modern history of Hellenism”.
Papadakis also said that with this move the Greek Cypriot side is giving Turkey more ammunition to continue its efforts to downgrade the Republic of Cyprus.
He urged the government to be more proactive as regards attacks against Turkish Cypriots as lack of action, he said, serves Turkey’s interests and for the president to tell Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci to switch off the lights of the flag of the breakaway regime on Pentadaktylos and “to leave suggestions aside instead of posing by his side”.
Former House speaker and former Edek leader Yiannakis Omirou, too condemned on Wednesday the upvote of the proposal as parliament, he said, allowed a “bigoted entity [Elam], affiliated with neo-fascist, neo-Nazi Golden Dawn”, to present its legislative initiative as “politically legitimate”.
The major issue, he said, is not the honours that are attributable to the “pure and beautiful struggles of the people of Cyprus”, but that this allowed those feeling nostalgic of the “darkest pages of contemporary Cypriot and Greek history” to present themselves as “leaders in patriotism and national sensitivities”.
Omirou also said that reactions in the north on the matter, were “not only unjustified but also outrageous and unacceptably provocative”.
But the socialist party’s youth branch has also distanced itself from Edek’s supportive stance on the Enosis vote.
“We feel that this vote does not do any service to education and to the viability of any settlement solution when and if this comes,” Edek’s youth branch said. Celebrating the anniversary of the Enosis referendum, they said, could only lead to exaltation of nationalist tendencies.
The vote caused tension between the relations of the two communities at political level. Akinci called on President Nicos Anastasiades to publicly oppose the decision and urged ruling Disy to work with Akel to undo it.
In response, Anastasiades condemned Turkish Cypriot reaction “for a mere reference to an historical fact” and pointed the finger at “the provocative celebrations” held in the north to commemorate the 1974 invasion. He said that the Enosis vote in parliament did not constitute a change of policy.