Cyprus Mail

EDEK to ask Omirou to stay on as leader until election (updated)

Yiannakis Omirou

By Constantinos Psillides

THE EDEK political bureau on Tuesday evening decided to ask chairman Yiannakis Omirou to rescind his resignation and lead the party to elections.

While the 7pm meeting was underway, deputy Chairman Marinos Sizopoulos said the proposal essentially called on Omirou to return to his duties and coordinate the party to tackle the problems together “in a bid to restore the movement’s political credibility.”

Sizopoulos said Omirou did not appear  prepared (earlier in the day at least) to change his decision.

Earlier on Tuesday, Sizopoulos said Omirou’s return would be much preferable to the party heading for elections leaderless.

The party’s MPs also backed this view.

An EDEK source told the Cyprus Mail that the members of the political bureau would go as far as to resign their posts, leaving the party without leadership, in an attempt to force Omirou to rescind his decision. Omirou wrote in his resignation letter that his decision was final.

“We need someone to steer the party towards elections. We need someone at the helm of the party until the members decide who will take the reins,” said the source.

Omirou resigned his post on Tuesday in a letter addressed to the party’s deputy leader. His resignation followed a letter from the party’s organisational secretary, Yiannos Efstathiou in October, which described the situation in the party as problematic, and blamed Omirou.

Efstathiou had asked Omirou not to stand for a parliamentary seat in Nicosia in 2016, and not to seek re-election at the next party congress. He had asked for his proposals to be discussed by the party and threatened to resign if they were not. His request was ignored and he resigned from his post on January 5.

Omirou said in his letter that it would have been more honest of Efstathiou to have asked for the leader’s resignations directly.

So far, Sizopoulos and deputy Giorgos Varnava appear to be the front-runners in the leadership contest. Sizopoulos has been vying for the leadership for some time and was reportedly frustrated by Omirou’s refusal to step down.

The source told the Cyprus Mail that Koullis Mavronikolas, a former MEP was also considering standing. “While he had been away from the public eye for the last couple of years, he has been very active within the party and is strongly considering challenging for the top spot,” said the source.

Asked to comment, Mavronikolas did not deny he was interested in the leadership but pointed out that party unity came first. “We need to get our president back to his post. That’s our number one concern right now. Everything else comes later,” said the former MEP.

Mavronikola’s wife, Roulla, who is also a party MP, told ASTRA radio today that whoever was surprised by Omirou’s resignation “has not been living in the party for the last few years.” Ms Mavronikola said Omirou was under a lot of pressure and that he faced significant opposition within the party.

She admitted that the party “was dragged into supporting Giorgos Lillikas’ candidancy for the 2013 presidential elections.”

Varnava corroborated Mavronikolas’ story, telling ASTRA radio that the party leader faced significant opposition for the last two years.

What broke the camel’s back appears to be the resounding defeat EDEK suffered in Sunday’s mayoral elections in Paphos, when a candidate supported by the party, AKEL and DIKO only took 27.5 per cent of the vote. The election was won by the DISY candidate Phedonas Phedonos, who took 49 per cent of the vote.

Omirou’s decision to back another party’s candidate angered the local EDEK branch, especially since the deputy mayor Makis Roussis, a prominent party member, had a good chance of winning.

The former party leader was also under heavy criticism for failing to comment about MP Fidias Sarikas’ embarrassing U-turn at the Supreme Court last week. Sarikas’ lawyers objected to the lifting of his parliamentary immunity despite earlier public assurances by the deputy that he would not object.

Sarikas’ immunity had to be lifted before police could remand him for questioning in connection with his alleged involvement in the Paphos Sewerage Board scandal, during his time as mayor.

EDEK’s delay in officially reacting to Sarikas’ volte-face led Sizopoulos to issue a personal statement questioning his colleague’s action.

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