By Constantinos Psillides
The Cabinet was meeting on Wednesday with discussions likely focusing on a possible reshuffle, which the president has slated for this week following the departure of DIKO from the coalition.
Also on the agenda would be the appointment of a new public service reform commissioner and a new auditor-general.
President Nicos Anastasiades’ was always expected to keep Energy Minister Giorgos Lakkotrypis, one of the DIKO four who resigned from the party.
However the other three, Education’s Kyriacos Kenevezos, Health’s Petros Petrides and Defence’s Fotis Fotiou has complicated matters and possibly pushed him in the corner after Petrides also resigned from DIKO and the other two distanced themselves from the party.
All three of them have up to now been very loyal to the government, sensing perhaps that a ministerial post is their only chance to stay in the public spotlight.
Denying them reappointment would likely doom them to political obscurity, as they have burnt bridges with their own party and none have enough support to run as an MP in the 2016 elections.
Letting them keep their posts would have some benefits, which Anastasiades must have considered. It will provide him with three loyal allies and also further undermine, DIKO leader Nicolas Papadopoulos.
All three have clashed with Papadopoulos numerous times over the last three weeks, they have questioned his leadership and judgement, they have criticised his decision to push the party into dissolving the government coalition and if they keep their posts its more than certain that they will keep doing so.
Internal strife within DIKO would be to Anastasiades’ advantage as Papadopoulos willlikely be the bigger obstacle he has to overcome on his road to resolving the Cyprus problem on the Greek Cypriot side. Papadopoulos has positioned himself as the leader of the naysayers camp.
Besides inviting the wrath of Papadopoulos and DIKO, keeping all four DIKO ministers would also earn Anastasiades’ some criticism from within his own party. Sources within governing DISY say that party leader Averof Neophytou is adamantly against the DIKO ministers keeping their posts, preferring that the president appoints people from his own party since DIKO officially left the government. Party MP, Giorgos Georgiou, speaking on television said that in the event that all DIKO ministers keep their posts “DISY would be extremely disappointed”.
Of course, since Anastasiades hasn’t yet gave any indication as to what his decision would be.
If Anastasiades decides to drop the three DIKO ministers, he has a lot of options within DISY. Andreas Pentaras, who Anastasiades appointed as head of the Intelligence Service (KYP) is the favourite to take the reins of the defence ministry. Pentaras was considered a lock when Anastasiades was first appointing his Cabinet, before he decided to hand over the ministry to DIKO.
Stella Kyriakidou, DISY MP and long time member of the House Health Committee, is the favourite for the job at the health ministry, having extensive knowledge of the field and being respected by the doctor’s union.
Kyriakidou was also one of the top candidates for the job last March before the ministry went to DIKO. The health ministry would probably prove to be the most problematic of the three, as the government still needs to pass an NHS plan, as it was stipulated in the updated Memorandum with the troika of lenders. The NHS would be the next major battlefield for the government after privatisations and Anastasiades needs someone he can trust at the helm of the health ministry.
Another DISY MP is the favourite for heading education ministry. Nicos Tornaritis, who headed the House Committee on Education for years seems like the best option for Anastasiades, as he also has a good relationship with both the elementary and high school teachers union. Appointing Tornaritis could be slightly problematic though, as the DISY MP drew heavy criticism last October when he said on a CyBC talk show that refugees from Kyrenia would likely never return to their homes and that its time for politicians to stop misleading and lie to them. Reaction was imminent and harsh and Tornaritis has since apologised for his comments.
Ministerial posts are not the only ones vacant in the government now. Anastasiades also has to appoint a Commissioner for the Reform of the Public Sector and a new auditor-general, now that Chrystalla Georghadjis is to take over at the central bank following Panicos Demetriades resignation on Monday. The name of Theodosis Tsiolas, secretary of the cabinet who works at the state accountant’s office has been mooted to replace Georghadjis as has Yiannos Harilaou, chief financial advisor to Archbishop Chrysostomos and head of the Council of the Institute of Certified Public Accountants of Cyprus.
Previous Reform Commissioner, Emmanuela Mousioutta Lambrianidou, resigned two weeks ago following DIKO’s departure from the government coalition. Lambrianidou is the sister of Marinos Moushiouttas, DIKO general secretary and Papadopoulos’ close associate. Irena Georgiadou, advisor to Finance Minister Harris Georgiades is said to have been contacted regarding the position.
Anastasiades has said he would announce his decisions by March 15.