THE DECISION to leave the government, taken by the DIKO executive office at midnight on Friday, was the best gift President Anastasiades could have received on the completion of his first year in office. He has been set free from the shackles of an alliance partner that has always championed the politics of negativity and hollow rhetoric, disguised as high principles and patriotism.
Anastasiades is now free to focus on the pursuit of a Cyprus settlement, without pandering to the DIKO leadership and wasting his time on finding ways of keeping it on side. He will no longer have to tread carefully for fear of angering Nicolas Papadopoulos whose only objective on the Cyprus problem is maintaining the status quo.
Papadopoulos’ most meaningful proposal to Anastasiades, before the agreement on the joint declaration, was that he should engage in talks that led nowhere. He wanted talks for the sake of talks, like those conducted during the presidency of his father, when the negotiators of the two sides had more than 100 meetings without agreeing anything. The DIKO chief wanted the president to deceive the Greek Cypriots, the UN, the EU, the US and the Turkish side by engaging in talks he would have no intention of ever concluding.
Now, Anastasiades does not even have to pretend to be interested in these absurd suggestions. He will also have finally realised that his oft-repeated plan for collective decision-making on the Cyprus problem by the National Council is totally unrealistic. This could never have happened with parties like DIKO and EDEK whose only reason for existing is to utter hard-line platitudes and oppose any attempt to solve the Cyprus problem.
The question that Anastasiades should ask is how many people do the naysayers actually represent? They do make a lot of noise because there is quite a few of them but that in no way means they reflect majority opinion. Electorally speaking, the hard-line parties do not represent more than a third of the voters, assuming all their supporters were opposed to a settlement.
Even the DIKO executive office was divided over leaving the government – only 22 of the 39 members voted in favour, while 15 voted against. The opposition to the joint declaration was not universal and more than one third of the party’s executive office did not share their leader’s view about it; there were deputies that spoke out against it in public. It will be interesting to see how the party’s Central Committee will vote on the executive’s proposal for leaving the government on Wednesday.
Papadopoulos may have acted rashly in taking DIKO out of the government, but it was the right thing to do. His party could not have remained the junior partner of an alliance that was sincerely committed to a settlement. Now it can step up its anti-settlement rhetoric, carry on calling Anastasiades a liar and arguing in favour of partition, which is what opposition to the peace process constitutes.
As for Anastasiades, he should allow DIKO and the rest of the hard-liners to continue their negative rhetoric, because it exposes their political bankruptcy. The fact is that they have nothing constructive or pragmatic to offer as an alternative to negotiations and an increasing number of people are becoming aware of this. All the alternatives – from the unyielding struggle to the European solution via the ECHR – to the peace process proposed by the rejectionist camp have been exposed as the fantasies they were.
There are no more false hopes to offer an increasingly sceptical public. The only road ahead is the one leading to a settlement and with DIKO quitting the government there will be nothing holding Anastasiades back.