Cyprus Mail

Residents seek move away from party politics

Disgraced mayor Savvas Vergas

By Bejay Browne

PAPHOS residents who have greeted the recent widespread revelations of corruption with a mixture of shock and cynicism seem to believe that today’s vote should encompass a break away from the political parties.

One resident, Andrew Angeli, said voters today must step away from corrupt politicians.

“We can only have a fair election if the voters really support complete change. Many people voted for Savvas Vergas [former disgraced mayor] as they had vested interests and they reaped the benefits. If this mentality carries on, then we will be in the same position. It’s a case of you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours.”
He believes that Paphos is being unfairly treated because of corrupt politicians and that there is a need for the town to take control of its own local economy.

“We need to start producing and Paphos has all of the necessary requirements to do so; this could include textiles and new emerging interests. Cyprus has a service based economy and we shouldn’t be solely reliant on that. We need to look at the tourist industry and improve it. This sector is currently disorganised in Paphos.”

Stressing the need for an independent candidate to take over the office of mayor, he said that the political parties are all corrupt.

“They suck the life blood out of the local economies, and what do they actually do? There are a few independent candidates who could be good for Paphos and much needs to be done to turn the situation around. We also need to encourage younger, educated people to stay, as many are leaving.”

Around 12 per cent of the 18,203 people who have the right to vote today are non-native Cypriots. Of these, those who voted for Vergas last time around say they will exercise extreme caution when completing their ballot papers this time.

Natalie Smith and her partner, both retired British expats, say the allegations being made against the ex-mayor have led them to question their judgement and say they feel shocked and betrayed. She added that a general lack of information available about the candidates and in particular in English has made their decision even harder.

“We will be voting in the election, although it’s actually hard to know and understand who you’re voting for if you’re a foreigner, as there isn’t much information available about the candidates. We made a huge mistake last time around and don’t want to repeat it. A number of my Cypriot friends have said they won’t be voting at all as they don’t trust anyone.’

However, Paphos resident Soula Christodoulou, 36, stressed the importance of voting and that extra care should be taken when deciding which candidate to support.

“I haven’t decided who to vote for yet. I’m doing some careful research as I want to be really sure who I’m voting for this time; it should be the most qualified. Not voting is just as bad as voting for the wrong person,” she said.

Christodoulou noted that the recent events could turn out to have a positive effect on Paphos and that other towns should follow suit and ‘clean up their act’ too.

“The new mayor will have a big job ahead. He will have to prove he is clean, it’s not like the past,” she said.

“People will question and judge his every move. Whoever comes to power will have to be transparent in everything they do, as there will be a lot of eyes on them and people must seriously consider who they are voting for.”

A long time municipal employee, who wished to remain anonymous, said although the scandals have caused ructions in Paphos, he believes the status quo will stay.

“People are shocked now, but this will all be forgotten in a short time and things will revert back to how they were, this is how Cyprus operates,” he said. “Backhanders are so usual that it’s very difficult to know who to trust. As Cypriots we need to address how to do things on all levels. I’m still not sure who I will vote for, but there seem to be a number of good candidates this time.”

He added that although he will vote for the best man for the job, he believes he is in a minority and that most people will still vote for the candidates representing the main political parties which their families traditionally support.

“That’s how we do things and I can’t see that changing just yet.”

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