By George Koumoullis
I FELT proud and honoured to have been part of the 100-member group which, with Vassos Lyssarides as its leader and guide, set up EDEK in 1969. Being the youngest of the group I had the title of ‘mitiskouris’ (kid), a description that seems surrealistic now, when I look at myself in the mirror.
In 1969 the Greek Junta’s veil of darkness had already covered everything in Cyprus as well. It pains me when I think about the Junta period (1967-1974) and recall that the majority of Cypriots, not only failed to resist the fascist dictatorship but, on the contrary, embraced and supported it, even though everyone now claims to have been against it.
This was a dark period in Cyprus’ history, dominated by rampant nationalism, uncontrollable individualism, blind selfishness and thick-skinned self-serving, while almost all the media had turned into mouthpieces and cheerleaders of the ‘national government’, which was how the Junta was referred to at the time.
The emergence of EDEK shone in this all-encompassing gloom as this was a party determined to undertake a panhellenic crusade for the restoration of democracy. As members an array of labels were pinned on us including communists, extremists and anti-Greeks because we had a vision of a free, democratic and proud Greece.
Unfortunately, after the fall of the Junta, EDEK gradually started losing its credibility and it has now hit rock-bottom. Many of its prominent members and supporters have distanced themselves or been kicked out of the party, while the latest polls show its share of the vote to be a meagre 3 to 4 per cent.
The reason for this loss of support is that EDEK now appears closer to the ideology of national socialism than social democracy. Some political analysts even believe that the neo-fascists of ELAM cannot establish themselves in Cypriot society as long as EDEK exists. Quite incredible when you consider that before 1974 EDEK was to the left of AKEL.
EDEK’S national socialism is evident in the rhetoric of its leadership and often sounds like that of Golden Dawn. The epitome of EDEK’s nationalism is revealed in a comment by Lyssarides recorded in the diary of the retired ambassador of Greece Christos Zacharakis. “He (Mr Lyssarides) would be prepared for EDEK to open its arms to all those who had got carried away in the coup because “it is with them they would fight the Turk” and because “a brother Michalis who is a junta-supporting fascist I would not mind having; but a brother Mehmet no’!”
A true social democrat could never have voted for a party with such a chauvinistic mentality. The current leader of the party, Marinos Sizopoulos, made his aversion to the Turkish Cypriots very clear last May when he decided that EDEK would no longer take part in the meetings of the parties of the two sides, organised by the Slovak embassy, on the ground that they “had no purpose and no result.”
The economic philosophy of EDEK also clashes with that of the Party of European Socialists (PES). European social democracy has adopted the neo-liberal economic thinking with Schroeder’s social provisions. We should not forget that the economic policy that derives from the Maastricht Treaty has been adopted European social democracy. Even the newly-elected leader of the UK Labour Party Jeremy Corbyn who is considered an ‘extreme’ leftist, has declared he would fully respect the Maastricht Treaty. Of all the socialist parties of Europe, the Lilliputian EDEK sticks out like a sore thumb and one wonders whether it is ethically correct for it to be part of the PES.
The new leadership of the party, renouncing the bi-zonal, bi-communal federation (BBF), has reinforced the prevalent view that EDEK is nothing more than an extreme right-wing nationalist party. It is puzzling how the moderate members of the party do not remind Sizopoulos that on September 19, 2009, EDEK, through its then leader Yiannakis Omirou backed the unanimous decision of the National Council repeating its “commitment to finding a peaceful solution based on the UN resolutions on Cyprus and the High Level agreements of 1977 and 1979 for a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation with political equality, as this is defined by the relevant resolutions of the UN Security Council.”
I will not argue that BBF is the only feasible solution, I have to ask: why has this change taken place now that peace talks are in progress? All those years that BBF was being served as a solution had Sizopoulos not realised that the settlement being sought referred to separation and to a confederation as he is claiming now? Could it be that BBF would signal the final demise of EDEK?
Then again the turnaround could have been dictated by party expediencies, EDEK fearing the threat of the hard-line Citizens’ Alliance. Or perhaps it has rejected BBF because we would have to share power with the Turkish Cypriots, something the national socialists would never tolerate.
Whatever the case, it is a pity because if EDEK was a true social democratic party it could have been the biggest party in Cyprus. Instead of this it has been relegated to a fringe party that stands out for its introspection, its moaning, protesting and negativity.
|George Koumoullis is an economist and social scientist|