Cyprus Mail
CM Regular ColumnistOpinion

Populism prevents president from taking tough decisions

President Anastasiades concerned for his legacy

By Loucas Charalambous
MANY accuse President Anastasiades of being an improviser in his political behaviour and not pursuing any major objective. It is said that he tries to hide his weakness or unwillingness to be productive, practical and effective by continuously resorting to communications ploys that are not only transparent but leave him exposed.
Put simply, the accusation is that Anastasiades is more interested in being popular (why, I wonder) instead of pursuing the difficult and brave decisions that are necessary for Cyprus to overcome the many assorted impasses it has been led to, mainly by its politicians.
It appears that he, without realising it, is striving to prove correct everyone who has this view. He is constantly giving examples of this weakness. Here are two examples.
On September 13, he gave a news conference at which he presented “an action plan for the reform of the public service”. He assured us that in three years we will have an impeccable state service unrecognisable from that we have had to put up with for decades.
I wonder how many people Anastasiades has convinced. I suspect nobody has bought this. To claim that you will modernise the public service of Cyprus is akin to saying that you will cure a leper or change the colour of a person’s skin by soaping it. It is not ‘reform’ that the public service is in need of. It needs, as I have written on many occasions, to be completely dismantled.
As many services as possible should be given to the private sector to run. The state should keep only those services which could not be done by private companies, plus the responsibility of monitoring and supervising the work done by the private sector.
Something along these lines is already being done by the Land Surveys Department, which contracts out many jobs (surveying, setting of boundaries, etc) to private individuals, with officials restricting themselves to a monitoring role and the issuing of permits. Generally speaking, it is ridiculous for citizens to wait for years for tasks to be completed by the state services when they could be done in no time by the private sector. But would Anastasiades dare move in this direction?
An even more striking example of the president’s quest for popularity is his handling of the Cyprus problem. How else but as a communications ploy, could the appointment of Amabassador Andreas Mavroyiannis as negotiator be viewed? Is it possible to appoint as our representative in negotiations for a settlement, a man who, responding to a question on whether a solution to the problem would help us get out of the recession, says “no, quite the opposite.”
Does Anastasiades think he can solve the Cyprus problem with a negotiator who states publicly that a solution would harm us economically, even now that we are in a state of bankruptcy? This appointment was also a tactical ploy in order to keep happy his government partner Marios Garoyian.
It would seem that even Anastasiades is no longer interested in a settlement. He is now even using the slogans of DIKO and the other hard-liners. “We will not agree to talks without adequate preparation,” he states, almost on a daily basis. He is beginning to sound like the late Spyros Kyprianou and Tassos Papadopoulos.
After 36 years of negotiations, Anastasiades is still seeking firmer preparation for talks. But the Cyprus problem, given the point it is at, could be solved in 15 days if the will for a settlement exists. If the will does not exist it will not be solved even after a hundred years of “good preparation”. In short, this is also a tactical ploy, aimed at keeping Garoyian and other opponents of a settlement happy.
The paradox is that Anastasiades thinks that these tactical ploys and improvisation will help his political career. He is not in the position to understand that in reality they will destroy it.

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