By Elias Hazou
Thou shalt not…steal votes from thine comrade: that is the gist of the code of conduct promulgated by AKEL for the upcoming parliamentary elections.
The code of ethics, rubberstamped by the party’s Central Committee on Saturday, contains not 10, but 13 commandments by which candidates for MP as well as party cadres must abide.
Its overriding aim appears to be to stamp out in-house vote-pinching among the 56 AKEL candidates in the run-up to the May 22 elections.
The codex places heavy restrictions on the party’s parliamentary hopefuls, letting them know that the party is running the show and that personal ambitions should be put on the backburner.
According to the three-page document, highlights of which daily Politis revealed, candidates as well as party cadres have an obligation to ‘propagandise’ (the word is specifically cited) and to support the party views. As such, expressing personal opinions is strictly prohibited, although the restriction is waived for those candidates belonging to the New Forces wing of the party.
Candidates are not allowed to influence party members, voters or sympathisers in order to secure votes for themselves. In addition, card-carrying members must likewise refrain from trying to influence voters from casting their ballot for a particular candidate. Candidates’ family relations are also required to conduct themselves in this way.
The document goes on to clarify that the restriction does not apply to vote- fishing from other parties.
Moreover, and seemingly counter-intuitive for an election race, whenever an AKEL candidate is being criticised, his or her fellow candidate – if he or she is present – has a duty to defend their colleague.
Candidates’ television and radio appearances, as well as their presence in election gatherings, must get the nod from the party centre. If a media outlet extends a personal invitation to a candidate to come on, he or she must inform the party.
No such restrictions apply to newspaper interviews, provided that the party’s views are promoted.
AKEL strictly forbids candidates from running personal ads or circulating election pamphlets promoting themselves, on any media, unless the party deems otherwise. The use of election cards is allowed, as the party will issue a uniform card for all the candidates.
Those belonging to the New Forces branch are afforded some leeway in organising events, and may also hand out their personal and professional cards to voters not affiliated to AKEL.
The party promises the candidates equal – as far as is possible – publicity on party-controlled media platforms, such as radio Astra and Haravghi newspaper.
When a candidate organises a closed gathering (for example a meeting in a house), the presence of other candidates should be ensured, where possible.
In addition, election hopefuls are forbidden from claiming they have ties to, or curry favour with, the party leadership as a means of swaying voters.
Candidates are prohibited from setting up personal websites. If a candidate happens to already have a personal webpage, he or she must not use it to engage in self-promotion.
The document defines self-promotion as the uploading of personal photos, paid commercials, video clips from public events, or reproducing commentary relating to any one candidate.
In the May 2011 legislative elections, AKEL garnered 32.67 per cent of the popular vote, earning 19 seats in parliament.