By Constantinos Psillides
PARTIES comprising the Paphos municipal council are looking to back a single candidate for the January 11 mayoral election, a source within EDEK told the Cyprus Mail on Wednesday.
The idea behind this initiative is for the parties to present a unified front and avoid a bloody campaign in the wake of infighting and the avalanche of scandals connected to former mayor Savvas Vergas who resigned on Tuesday.
“There is nothing concrete at the moment. We approached the other parties unofficially to gauge their reaction. Official deliberations will start over the next days and we are hoping that everyone will be on board,” the source said.
“Alliances will most definitely be formed, the same way it happens in every election. Our goal is to make this alliance as wide as possible for the sake of unity that the town so desperately needs”.
While not the party with the most councillors – EDEK has four, DISY has six, DIKO has five, AKEL has three and EVROKO has one – the socialists appear to be the favourites for the mayoral chair. Deputy mayor Makis Roussis who hails from EDEK has been a prominent figure in the wake of the Vergas scandals, often assuming the responsibility of speaking on behalf of the municipal council.
Asked by the Cyprus Mail whether he was interested in running for mayor, Roussis said that he was most definitely up for the challenge but pointed out that “the final decision would be made by the party.”
Commenting on Vergas stepping down, Roussis said he welcomed it because it would give Paphos the chance to elect a new mayor, adding that he was “deeply saddened by the blows to the municipality’s integrity.”
Vergas is currently in custody concerning kickbacks he allegedly received while chairing the Paphos Sewerage Board. The former mayor will also appear before court in the case of a suspicious land deal the municipality drafted with land development company Aristo Developers, texting threats to witnesses in the case, allegedly forging documents to conceal proceedings from a charity concert and for building a private tennis court on public land. The mayor resigned after being pressured by all the parties and by Interior Minister Socratis Hasikos who was openly working with legal services to come up with a legal way to show Vergas the door.
While Roussis is the frontrunner, he is not the only one said to be eyeing the top spot in Paphos. Former long-time mayor Fidias Sarikas (1997-2006) who is currently an MP for EDEK might be a candidate, along with former health minister, DIKO’s Christos Patsalides who is currently heading the “Paphos 2017 European Cultural Capital” committee.
DISY district officer Yiannakis Lazarou told CyBC radio yesterday that his party was looking for a candidate with a wide appeal and if that failed, DISY would form alliances with other parties. A party candidate is the last resort, added Lazarou.
Daily Haravghi, the mouthpiece of main opposition party AKEL, ran a story yesterday saying that DISY already approached DIKO to propose that both parties back a candidate from DIKO. While not specifically mentioned, Patsalides is the only one fitting Haravghi’s description.
Patsalides commented on the rumours saying that he would run for mayor, and that he would only do so “if his candidacy was backed by all parties.”
A DIKO district officer who was asked, told CyBC radio that his party had not yet begun deliberations.
AKEL district officer Kyriakos Christou said that his party would only back a candidate if “he or she fulfilled the criteria set by the community.” Christou added that a DISY-DIKO collaboration only served to remedy the strife between the two parties.
A Patsalides candidacy is likely to be opposed by AKEL, making Roussis the candidate with the least opposition.
Citizens’ Alliance leader Yiorgos Lillikas told Sigma TV that his party will submit its own candidate, adding that the entire municipal council should also resign since “it’s not possible that they knew nothing of what was going on.”
Candidates have until December 30 to file their candidacy, according to a statement issued by the head of the Elections Service at the Interior Ministry Demetris Demetriou. According to the statement, 18,023 citizens in Paphos have a right to vote.