As a result of severe backlash from the controversial selection of ruling DISY’s parliamentary candidates and the withdrawal of Volunteerism Commissioner Yiannis Yiannaki from contention, the party was forced to backtrack on its decision to replace Annita Demetriou from the Larnaca ticket, it emerged on Thursday.
During Tuesday’s selection of parliamentary candidates, the party’s charter rules regarding women’s participation were ignored in the case of Demetriou, as was the will of the party’s members in the case of Christos Pallis, whom the political bureau replaced with leadership favourites Rikkos Mappourides and Yiannis Yiannaki.
The decisions prompted public criticism, which escalated on Thursday, after party spokesman Prodromos Prodromou’s gaffe of explaining Demetriou’s withdrawal away with the argument that parliamentary elections are “not a beauty pageant”.
DISY leader Averof Neophytou has been drawing flak not only from the public but also from other DISY candidates since Tuesday night, when the party’s political bureau, mandated with reviewing and ratifying the results of last Sunday’s intra-party elections while reserving the right to overrule the popular vote, chose to replace Demetriou on the ticket with Volunteerism Commissioner Yiannaki in the Larnaca district and Pallis with Mappourides – a sitting MP – in Nicosia.
The decision to replace Pallis, which the party claims came after he and Demetriou decided to withdraw voluntarily for the good of the party, came at odds with Neophytou’s remarks after Sunday’s elections.
“For us, these proceedings are a festival of democracy,” he had said at the time.
“We are the only party that affords its members the right to select the party’s parliamentary candidates.”
But when the decision to overrule the popular vote on Tuesday backfired, Neophytou opted to keep a low profile, tasking Prodromou with arguing the crisis away.
Speaking on Sigma TV’s news show on Wednesday night, Prodromou tried to defend the party’s decision to replace Demetriou by playing the politics card.
“Mrs Demetriou was on the ticket on a proportionality clause in the party’s charter,” Prodromou said.
He was referring to a party rule regarding elections for the Cyprus and European parliaments, according to which at least 30 per cent of the candidates on DISY’s ticket must be women, provided enough women are interested in running.
Demetriou’s withdrawal left DISY’s Larnaca ticket with an all-male ticket.
“Personally, I would prefer if a woman was on [the ticket], but the decision we had to make was based on the fact that we are running in elections, not a beauty pageant,” Prodromou said.
The remark went unnoticed by the show’s host, but the implication was that adherence to the proportionality rules depends on the political stakes, prompting further scornful remarks by the public on the social networks, as well as Savia Orphanidou, one of the party’s women candidates who spoke out against the decisions from the start.
“I am fully aware of the party’s charter clauses,” she wrote in a Facebook post.
“But what is included in the charter is not necessarily fair. Therefore, we all agree it needs to change. And with regard to the ‘beauty pageants’ argument, it is not an insult to our intelligence, but to the intelligence of those who believe it.”
On Thursday, Prodromou returned to the point, posting an obscure clarification on Twitter.
“I certainly did not mean women (candidates)! ‘They are not beauty pageants’: it is not (just) a matter of personal promotion. But of policies and positions.” he tweeted.
Meanwhile, the back-and-forth with Yiannaki’s candidacy on Tuesday night did not help things for DISY.
Following the outcry, Yiannaki appears to have had second thoughts about the way he clinched the nomination, and on Wednesday night posted an emotional message on Facebook withdrawing his name from consideration.
Soon thereafter Yiannaki deleted the post, but a meeting with Neophytou on Thursday morning changed nothing, with the commissioner insisting on his decision to pull out of the race.
Against this backdrop, DISY’s Larnaca District Secretariat convened on Thursday to fill the vacant spot on the party’s ticket, deciding to reinstate Demetriou.
“In an extraordinary session, DISY’s Larnaca District Secretariat reconvened and reviewed the circumstances created after Mr Yiannis Yiannaki’s decision to withdraw his candidacy in the upcoming May’s legislative elections,” the secretariat said in a statement.
“Fully respecting Mr Yiannaki’s decision, it decided to include Mrs Annita Demetriou in the Larnaca ticket.”