MEDIA reports in the last few weeks suggest that a fifth man could be added to the main line-up of candidates for next year’s presidential elections. The name of the Rector of the University of Cyprus, Costas Christofides has been repeatedly mentioned, without him either confirming or denying these plans, when contacted. His refusal to deny the reports, understandable to an extent, has been taken to mean he intends to stand.
In fact, Alithia newspaper, a staunch supporter of President Anastasiades, seemed so alarmed by this prospect that on Friday it carried a front-page editorial, under the headline ‘The rector and logic’, in which it urged him to reconsider his plan as this would increase the chances of electing a rejectionist president. The paper argued that Christofides, at best, would collect 5 to 6 per cent of the vote, at the expense of Anastasiades, thus putting at risk the president’s chances of making it to the second round of the elections. “Instead of bringing to power a candidate that believes in a settlement they (supporters of Christofides’ candidacy) will achieve the exact opposite result,” the paper said.
Strange, how the paper takes it for granted that Anastasiades would be a candidate, despite the president’s repeated assertions that he had not decided whether he would be seeking re-election. We all know his actions – touring the country, giving out money – show he will seek a second term, but for now, he is not standing so it would be unreasonable to expect other candidates to base their decisions on the president’s intentions.
Perhaps, the pollsters that told him a settlement would not be approved by the Greek Cypriots, making him adopt a hard-line stance at the talks, would tell him that his re-election prospects were poor, thus persuading him not to stand. There are precedents. Of the last four presidents, only one won a second term – Glafcos Clerides. George Vassiliou lost the run-off, Tassos Papadopoulos failed to make the run-off, while Demetris Christofias did not seek re-election to avoid an electoral humiliation.
Perhaps the paper is over-estimating Anastasiades’ re-election prospects, but anyone could get such calculations wrong. It is however, making an indefensible mistake in presenting Anastasiades as the ‘settlement president’, whom no pro-settlement candidate should challenge because this would strengthen the rejectionists. Will Anastasiades have the nerve to stand as the pro-settlement candidate after squandering the best opportunity ever presented to solve the Cyprus problem? Does Alithia trust a man who posed as a champion of reunification, but became a fully-fledged rejectionist when the big decisions that would lead to a deal had to be taken?
Only as a joke could Anastasiades be regarded a ‘settlement president,’ after his actions of the last few months. A politician should be judged by his actions and his actions emphatically proved he is much more comfortable with the maintenance of the status quo. And after Crans-Montana, he has set conditions for returning to the dialogue that the Turkish side would never accept. In short, with regard to the Cyprus problem, he is no different from Nikolas Papadopoulos and Giorgos Lillikas as a candidate.
By next February, the possibilities of a new process on the Cyprus problem might be zero, in which case we would have no use for the ‘settlement president’ Alithia wrote about. But it would certainly be time for an independent candidate that would end the stranglehold of the parties over our society. In this respect, Christofides, if he decided to stand, would be a real alternative to the party establishment that reigns supreme over the country. He could stand for the end of the political party hegemony that thrives on rusfeti, wheeler-dealing, economic mismanagement, and short-termism.
In the last parliamentary elections, more than a third of registered voters did not bother turning up to vote. Many commentators attributed this to disillusionment with the political system and warned that people were losing interest in elections because parties and politicians had fallen into disrepute. This theory can only be tested at the ballot box and the only way to test it is to offer voters the choice of a candidate, who is not a product or a dependent of the party system.
Christofides has the credentials and public standing to take on the ancient regime, if he decides to go for it. Party politicians have been running the country, badly, ever since the establishment of the Republic. Perhaps the time has arrived for an outsider to take on the self-serving, party establishment.