BEFORE he was elected, President Anastasiades had promised that decisions relating to the Cyprus problem would be taken collectively at the National Council. This was his way of winning over undecided voters that did not approve of his Cyprus problem positions and of reassuring his hard-line allies of DIKO and EUROKO, who never forgave his support for the Annan plan in 2004.
By surrendering, decision-making powers, given to him by the constitution, to the National Council he would be voluntarily placing himself under the control of the party leaders. As extra reassurance to his hard-line partners, he promised to appoint a negotiator that would be chosen in consultation with the party leaders, to conduct the talks. This may have been a cynically smart electoral move, but Anastasiades could regret it, very soon.
Next month, the Council will meet over two days, to choose the Greek Cypriot side’s chief negotiator at the peace talks and this will be a collective decision. There is a real possibility that the majority of the council would choose, as chief negotiator, someone who would work against a settlement. He or she could have the backing of the hard-line anti-solution parties and Anastasiades would be obliged to respect the decision of the majority.
Even if this scenario is avoided, what would the president do if there is an opportunity of a major breakthrough at the talks and majority of the National Council decided against taking it? And what would he do if all the party leaders demanded that the UN’s Special Envoy Alexander Downer had to be replaced before talks resumed? What consensus would he achieve in a Council consisting of leaders, traditionally accustomed to rejecting every Cyprus problem initiative undertaken?
There is also a constitutional issue at stake. The National Council is an advisory body and has no authority to take decisions. Of course, how it is used is at the president’s discretion and if the president wants to cede his decision-making powers to Messrs Perdikis, Omirou, Lyssarides, Syllouris, Kyprianou and Garoyian nobody could stop him. On the other hand, the electorate did not choose these leaders to make decisions on the Cyprus problem it elected Anastasiades to do this job.
The president suggested that for any decision to be binding it would need 75 per cent support (each party would represent the percentage it received in the last parliamentary election), which was a DIKO suggestion to ensure that AKEL and DISY would need its support to make anything binding. But what would happen if there is not 75 per cent support? Would the president do as he pleased or would no decision be taken?
This whole idea seems rather absurd and the sooner it is abandoned the better. Anastasiades should bear in mind that we have a presidential system and forget the nonsense about collective decision-making which is a formula for very bad decisions.