NICOLAS Papadopoulos may have considered his election as DIKO leader last December the crowning achievement of his political career. This was the ideal launching pad for his presidential ambitions and an opportunity to establish himself as a credible candidate. He had raised his profile as chairman of the House finance committee, speaking sensibly on economic issues and often issuing warnings against the short-sighted, populist policies pursued by the previous president.
After the Eurogroup meetings and the haircut, he shunned the populism embraced by most other politicians, supporting the government’s austerity measures, irrespective of the political cost. In short, he made a name for himself as a responsible, young politician who gained public respect without resorting to the shabby, petty-minded practices of the old guard. What a pity that in the space of three months, since becoming party leader, he managed to destroy the image he had built, acting like a wheeler-dealing politician of the old guard as well as displaying poor judgment.
This poor judgment was exemplified by his knee-jerk reaction to the joint declaration and insistence on leaving the government alliance, on the flimsy grounds that the president had not honoured his agreement on the Cyprus problem. His abject negativity and scare-mongering showed him up as just another old school politician intent on making political capital out of a hard line on the Cyprus problem. Like his father Tassos, Spyros Kyprianou and Vassos Lyssarides he flew the flag of negativity, offering nothing other than maintenance of the status quo as an alternative.
In the end, he managed to impose his will on his party, but only just. His proposal for quitting the government received 97 votes in favour and 81 against on Wednesday night, not exactly a vote of confidence in the new leader. Worse still, was how he secured the majority. He made the scandalous amendment to the SGO privatisation bill – preventing SGOs laying off redundant workers and guaranteeing their inflated pensions even after privatisation – in exchange for securing the support of a CyTA union boss, who was a member of the DIKO central committee, in the Wednesday night vote.
This was the type of absurd amendment that he would have spoken out against, if he was just the chairman of the House finance committee. But he had to win the vote and the end justified the means. And for what? Essentially, he wanted to punish Anastasiades for wanting to solve the Cyprus problem and take the mantle of the leading hardliner? In the process he managed to split his party, after just three months as leader, and prove to everyone that despite being young, he thinks and acts, like a politician of a bygone era, that had nothing to offer apart from vacuous, hard-line rhetoric.