By Constantinos Psillides
In case you missed it, this week we were entertained by the wacky antics of one Nicolas Papadopoulos, DIKO leader and prominent politician. Papadopoulos spent the first half of the week blasting President Nicos Anastasiades after the law firm he founded was caught briefly representing low-cost carrier Ryanair in a bid to buy the now defunct Cyprus Airways.
Papadopoulos, a lawyer himself, was outraged at how the president could be involved, and demanded that he made good on his word when he promised three months ago that he would quit if either he or his law firm was found to have been involved in the bidding process.
That’s the first half because Papadopoulos spent the rest of the week trying, and failing, to explain why his own law firm could represent two engineers in a claim against the Paphos municipality while at the same time also representing the municipality in a claim against a construction company.
Coupled with the fact the his law firm also represents Theodoros Aristodemou – founder of Aristo Developers – who is one of five former Bank of Cyprus board members on trial in connection with the banking collapse at the same time as Papadopoulos chairs the House Finance Committee, one could easily see why he spent the week deflecting accusations of conflict of interest.
Seeing that the hole he found himself in was not deep enough, the DIKO leader dug deeper. He claimed he had nothing to do with the law firm and that he had left there in 2011. But as of Wednesday morning, he was still listed as an associate on the firm’s website with his full resume and political achievements proudly displayed, including his election as DIKO leader in 2013.
To top the blunder, the firm hurriedly took Papadopoulos’ profile down when the story broke, apparently under the impression that people have not yet mastered the art of screen shots.
The next time Papadopoulos sits in a dark room wondering how he was caught with his pants down like that, he should try to remember that it was all completely avoidable had he employed a marginally capable media strategist.
Cypriot politicians suffer from acute “iknoweverythingitis”. It is a dangerous disease that makes them believe they are smarter than everyone else.
Economy? Who needs economists with their weird jargon and incomprehensible graphs? We know what’s best for the people.
Hydrocarbons? Why should we rely on energy experts who advised us to hold the applause until after we found out exactly how much gas and oil we have? We know there are vast reserves just waiting to be drilled.
Media strategists? Pfff. Who needs them and their PR know-how? We can navigate the publicity minefield ourselves.
No matter that political parties in other countries spend millions on PR companies, image builders and media strategists. Cypriot politicians know better than to waste money on such trivialities.
A professional would of course have seen this disaster coming a mile away. The moment Papadopoulos decided to go on the warpath against the President, a strategist’s first question would have been “has anyone checked our own back yard?”.
He/she would have found Papadopoulos profile in time, taken it down before anyone even thought to look for it, and prepare a statement addressing the issue ahead of time so it could be released the moment the story hit the front pages.
Both the story and the response would have been done and dusted in a day in terms of media coverage. Instead they let it evolve into yet another long-drawn out saga that makes a jaded public lose the will to live.
Do we really need more proof of this than the way we botched the Barbaros debacle? Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan knew exactly how we would react when he dispatched the ship to the island’s exclusive economic zone.
He wanted us out of the talks so he could blame the dead-end on the Greek-Cypriot side. Being the short-sighted, temperamental people we are, we obliged, and effectively shot ourselves in the foot while Erdogan sniggers away in his palace.
Being utterly predictable and thus easily manipulated is not a trait seen in the capable politician, at least, not one who believes he or she can compete on a global level.
Had Anastasiades taken a step back, ignored local politics, analyse the situation and consulted with experts he probably would not have withdrawn from the peace talks.
Realising his mistake, he is now trying to find a face-saving way back to the table.
Resorting to professional help and heeding the advice of experts is not a sign of weakness and this is something our politicians fail to grasp. Nor is it a shame to admit that maybe they are not in the same league as their counterparts in other countries. Only by recognising and understanding our limitations can we surpass them.
Or else we are going to end up in a dark room in DIKO wondering what went wrong.
*Constantinos Psillides is a reporter with the Cyprus Mail and in no way affiliated or employed by a media company.