IN THE END, Nicolas Papadopoulos won the DIKO leadership contest defeating the incumbent and favourite Marios Garoyian by the narrowest of margins, some 500 votes. It was still an impressive achievement, considering Garoyian was in charge of the party machinery and had most of the party’s staff and officers working for him.
It is the first time the offspring of a party leader takes control of a party that had been led by his father. The son of another DIKO leader, Marcos Kyprianou had been a deputy and minister of the party but he never appeared to have had a very active involvement in the daily goings-on or in the decision-making of the party. Papadopoulos, in contrast, has had an active role in the party and smartly used his chairmanship of the House Finance Committee to raise his public profile, often taking rational positions about the economy.
Now he has to establish himself as leader of the party that is part of the government, under a president, whose candidacy Papadopoulos had publicly opposed. He had fought against DIKO’s election alliance with DISY, but he said he had no intention to pull out of the government if he won the leadership; nor would he seek the replacement of DIKO’s ministers that had been appointed on the recommendation of Garoyian. It would have been foolish to do so especially as his message yesterday was party unity.
Holding the party together and becoming accepted as leader will be the real test of Papadopoulos’ political skills. Will he be able to keep the rank and file happy if he abandons the DIKO tradition of dispensing favours among its members? Perhaps the hard-line rhetoric on the Cyprus problem, another DIKO tradition, would be enough to keep ordinary members happy.
But even on the Cyprus problem, Papadopoulos appears to be happy with the way things are going for now. His close aide Chrysis Pantelides said yesterday that the party fully agreed with the president’s insistence on a joint declaration before the start of negotiations, which was no big surprise. What everyone is wondering is what DIKO’s position would be once negotiations commence.
Pantelides indicated what should be expected, saying that Papadopoulos “will play the role that is needed in the Cyprus problem” and would work for a settlement “with the right content.” The late Tassos Papadopoulos regularly said he wanted a settlement, but “with the right content,” which was his way of saying he was opposed to any settlement that the Turkish side would agree to, as it would not have the “right content”.
We should not make assumptions. Nicolas could surprise us all and abandon his father’s hard-line ideology now that he has become party leader in his own right.