By Jean Christou
IN A serious blow to DIKO leader Nicolas Papadopoulos, the remaining three ministers the party had placed in government broke ties with him on Monday ahead of a government reshuffle later this week.
DIKO had ordered its four ministers to resign from the cabinet following its decision last month to withdraw from the coalition with ruling DISY over differences on the handling of the Cyprus issue.
None had wanted to resign, and had made it clear during internal party meetings that they thought it was a mistake to leave the coalition. The proposal to withdraw had come from Papadopoulos, but he only managed to secure narrow majorities in favour at both the executive and central committee meetings last month.
But while Energy Minister Giorgos Lakkotrypis submitted his resignation to the party last week, it was widely expected the other three, longtime DIKO acolytes Education Minister Kyriacos Kenevezos, Health Minister Petros Petrides and Defence Minister Fotis Fotiou, would toe the party line.
Instead, all three yesterday issued statements within minutes of each other saying they had withdrawn from the party. Kenevezos and Fotiou were careful with heir wording by saying that they had suspended their ‘active participation’ in the party, rather than using the word ‘resignation’.
This was a clear dig at Papadopoulos’ leadership implying that they did not wish to burn their bridges with the party. Petrides however, like Lakkotrypis, said he had resigned.
DIKO’s response was brief. Spokeswoman Christiana Erotokritou said: “Messers Kenevezos, Petrides and Fotiou chose personal paths above the common struggles of the members and voters of the Democratic Party.”
“Their decision to withdraw from the party has not surprised anyone, nor have their motives,” she added.
Speaking to reporters at parliament earlier Papadopoulos said the party had taken a “clear decision” to quit the coalition because President Nicos Anastasiades had broken his pre-election promises on the way the Cyprus issue would be handled, particularly with regards to the joint declaration that lays down the parameter of the new round of talks. “The principles and history of the party must be served,” Papadopoulos said, adding that the party’s decision to leave the government should be respected by everyone.
Each of the three ministers outlined their reasons for distancing themselves from DIKO.
Kenevezos posted a statement on his Facebook page saying DIKO’s recent decision to withdraw from the coalition “served strategies and tactics disguised in a patriotic cloak”.
“However, genuine patriotism dictates that any political ambitions serve the majority – which is the national and public interest,” said Kenevezos.
“I think that DIKO, now more than ever, should be involved in achieving a solution and in defending the interests of the Greek Cypriots instead of the chosen route of denial and escape.”
Petrides, in his letter to Papadopoulos said: “The political maturity, accountability and consistency, all principles which govern the operation of the Democratic Party, have unfortunately fallen by the wayside. The controversies, recriminations and efforts to enforce positions are unfortunately major issues.”
He called the party decision to leave the coalition at such a crucial time for the Cyprus issue without first considering other options as “puzzling” and robbed the party of the possibility of meaningful participation in efforts for reunification.
Papadopoulos, he said instead of establishing a dialogue with Anastasiades on the joint declaration with a view to improving it, chose the easier option of withdrawing from the government.
Fotiou, who “grew up in DIKO”, said the party’s withdrawal did not serve the best interests of the country and had reduced the party to a mere spectator of major developments.
“History will judge us because while current conditions require political stability, we chose the soundbites designed to destabilise,” he said.
It now remains to be seen whether Anastasiades will re-appoint all four of the ministers in the reshuffle.
Doing so could alienate him even more from DIKO whose support is still needed in parliament.