By Elias Hazou
DIKO’s top decision-making body is to convene sometime over the next few days to review the President’s “bad” deal to resume peace talks, the party’s leader Nicolas Papadopoulos said yesterday.
Papadopoulos’ statement reinforced mounting speculation that the junior coalition partners are poised to withdraw from the government.
In the statement, Papadopoulos accused the administration of caving in to international pressure to resume reunification talks and of making concessions to the Turkish Cypriot side in the joint communique agreed by the two communities’ leaders.
“Unfortunately, the negotiations are commencing on a very bad basis,” the DIKO leader said.
Papadopoulos claimed also that, in agreeing to the joint declaration, President Anastasiades has reneged on commitments made to DIKO as a precondition for a DISY-DIKO alliance on the eve of last year’s presidential elections.
The “new state of affairs” as a result of the President’s decision to engage in peace talks would be discussed at the first session of DIKO’s Executive Bureau to be convened in the coming days, the statement concluded.
Following the internal party elections held this weekend, Papadopoulos’ faction gained a majority within the Executive Bureau, the body that calls the shots on party policy.
DIKO has four ministers in the 11 member cabinet; and withdrawal from the government would weaken the party’s grasp on real political power. However even in the event of an exit, it’s extremely unlikely that DIKO-affiliated appointees to semi-governmental organisations would also tender their resignations.
At least three of the four DIKO ministers in the government are known to be supporters of the faction aligned to Marios Garoyian – the former party leader and Papadopoulos’ adversary.
Papadopoulos would therefore not be averse to seeing these ministers sent packing, but he must tread lightly.
But the so-called moderate faction in DIKO still commands a presence, so Papadopoulos may not want to risk a move splitting the party.
It’s conceivable that DIKO could abandon the government and yet at the same time continue to support bailout-related legislation in parliament. Papadopoulos has repeatedly gone on record saying that the fastest way to get out of the bailout is to implement the troika memorandum to the letter.
For Papadopoulos, the continued collaboration with DISY hinges on the Cyprus issue, not the economy.
A possible play by DIKO to leave the coalition is “touch and go,” says political commentator Louis Igoumenides.
Papadopoulos’ reason for convening the Executive Bureau is to “test the waters for opposition,” he explained.
“Papadopoulos needs to consider a lot of things before making a move. He knows that, should he leave the government, he’ll have a tough time becoming the go-to guy for the anti-solution camp, because there he’s got competition from other wannabes like EDEK’s Omirou and [Giorgos] Lillikas.”
Moreover, resistance to a solution of the Cyprus problem among the public is probably not as steadfast as it was back in 2004. The prospects for economic recovery arising from a solution are something that the average person would welcome, Igoumenides opines.
And, significantly, Anastasiades has the backing of AKEL on the Cyprus issue.
It’s therefore possible that Papadopoulos might elect to stay in the government and seek to undermine the peace talks from within every chance he gets.
Meanwhile in a likely tactical manoeuvre Anastasiades has addressed a letter to Papadopoulos picking apart the latter’s objections to the resumption of peace talks based on the joint declaration.
The lengthy letter, leaked to the media yesterday, addresses Papadopoulos’ concerns point by point. In it, the President notes that Papadopoulos’ objections are grounded in “misinterpretations” of the wording and content of the declaration. He called them “universal misconceptions” and “erroneous conclusions, saying the joint declaration had been vetted by two authoritative legal minds – James Crawford and Vaughan Lowe – whose services had been commissioned by previous Cypriot presidents.
Anastasiades even offered to explain the declaration before DIKO’s organs if so invited.
The letter was targeted more at the “doves” within DIKO rather than the Papadopoulos bloc, says Igoumenides.
“Effectively Anastasiades is saying ‘Look, I haven’t broken our deal’. It’s intended to soften up opposition inside DIKO to the resumption of talks.”