IN HIS speech at the memorial service for Glafcos Clerides on Sunday, former interior minister and Disy stalwart, Socratis Hasikos had a dig at President Anastasiades’ leadership, which he implied was dictated by opinion polls. He did not mention Anastasiades, but it was blatantly obvious to whom he was referring when extolling Clerides’ leadership qualities and describing him as “a true leader” who “resisted the irresistible charm of populism and did not give in to the pressures of electoral clientele”.
Clerides “led and was not led, he served what was right and correct, not what was popular”, Hasikos said before adding: “He did not study opinion polls in order to forge policy, he exercised politics and shaped society.”
This was a thinly veiled criticism of Anastasiades, who changed his pro-settlement stance and adopted a much harder line on the Cyprus problem for electoral gain. The president sounds increasingly like rejectionist politicians, adopting their rhetoric and setting conditions the Turkish Cypriot side would not accept for returning to the talks.
This harder line, as Hasikos implied, was dictated by opinion polls, which indicated a growing opposition to a settlement by the public. The irony is that the president has helped cultivate the growth of this opposition through the negative stance and rhetoric towards the peace efforts he adopted since the start of the year. It was early this year that information began circulating that opinion polls, conducted for the president, showed that a settlement would not be approved in a referendum. Anastasiades – in contrast to Clerides – used opinion polls to decide policy.
This lack of leadership, exemplified by Makarios’ “I cannot lead my people to where they will not go,” has plagued Cyprus politics and is one of the main reasons there has not been a settlement. No leader is willing to take such a big responsibility and as soon as there is a possibility of a breakthrough they get cold feet. Anastasiades took the path of least resistance when the big decision had to be made because this was easier than persuading people, who had been conditioned against a settlement for the last 40 years, to support a deal.
Of course opinions polls would show that the majority of Greek Cypriots were opposed to a deal, but what is the role of a leader if not to persuade people that the path he or she has chosen is the correct one for the future of the country? Instead of acting as a leader, fighting to persuade people that a settlement was the way forward, Anastasiades followed the crowd, joining the anti-solution camp, as this would help his bid for re-election.
It is not the type of leadership Clerides, who Anastasiades referred to as his political father, would have endorsed.