By George Koumoullis
THE DECLINE of DIKO in the parliamentary elections in the last decade has been spectacular as the party’s share of the vote indicates.
In parliamentary elections in 2006, the party won 17.92 per cent of the votes, dropping to 14.84 per cent in 2011. According to a recent CyBC poll, DIKO’s share of the vote in next month’s elections is expected to fall to 13.50 per cent.
Even more significant is that if the rate of decline of the parliamentary elections and the Euro parliament elections of the last 10 years continues until 2026, DIKO will be garnering just 9.3 per cent.
DIKO has lost 25 per cent of its electoral strength in parliamentary elections in the last 10 years. In the European elections the loss from 2004 to 2014 was even more marked: its share of the vote was 17.09 per cent and 10.83 per cent respectively, which is a decrease of 37 per cent. If we go back 30 years (to elections held in December 1985) DIKO, with 27.65 per cent of the vote was the second strongest party. Since then it has lost 52 per cent of its support.
The democratisation of Cyprus that has been taking place in the last few years – without claiming we have reached enviable levels in this respect – has dealt a blow to the popularity of DIKO. Our desire to become part of Europe, has forced us to amend or introduce laws that promote democratisation, the decriminalisation of homosexuality and the introduction of civil weddings for example. This strategy, in combination with the penetration of European culture in our society, has strengthened pluralism, equality and tolerance while, ipso facto, eroding the leader-based parties that dominate in third world countries.
DIKO is a par excellence leader-based party. It was established in 1976 by Archbishop Makarios underling, Spyros Kyprianou, and is considered even today as the party of the ‘Makarios supporters’. The very idea of ‘Makarios supporters’, in this day and age, makes any thinking person laugh, because it is not based on any specific philosophy, ideology or dogma as in the case, for instance, of Marxists or Islamists. It is indicative that the first thing Kyprianou stressed in announcing the establishment of the party was the “strengthening of struggle course of Ethnarch Makarios”.
In other words, Kyprianou was proudly declaring that he was the upholder of Makarios’ “struggle course” (whatever that meant) and it was with this profile that he became involved in the political arena. The death in 2008 of Kyprianou’s successor as DIKO leader, Tassos Papadopoulos, signalled the arrival of a new era because at DIKO’s helm there was no longer a leader that could be regarded by the democratically evolving society of the 21st century as a ‘messiah’ or ‘irreplaceable’.
The principal reason for DIKO’s sinking, however, is that the party has no ideological base and therefore cannot thrive in a democratic society. In the economic field, its boast that it supports a mixed economy says nothing because both DISY and AKEL embrace this principle in their respective manifestos. In the political field the ‘Makarios card’ has weakened dramatically and is unlikely to afford any advantage. This is why DIKO is gripped by an existential fear: that in the end it will be crushed between the grindstones of AKEL and DISY.
Activating its instinct for self-preservation, DIKO focuses all its attention on the solution of the Cyprus problem, its politics (unfortunately exemplified by relentlessly sterile rhetoric) having the ultimate objective of justifying its existence. It accepts the bi-zonal, bi-communal federation but with the “right content”, without ever specifying what exactly it means by this pre-condition, raising logical suspicions that it is just a pretext for its rejection.
Yet it was Tassos Papadopoulos who had signed the agreement of July 8, 2006 which clearly stipulated that a settlement would involve the transformation of the Cyprus Republic into a federal state. Despite this, every convergence achieved at the talks, the party doubts, mocks and denigrates while, simultaneously spreading the hackneyed and dubious theory about the ‘virgin birth’. A social psychologist would have explained that this negativity does not alienate the supporters of the party, because some in Cyprus have become addicted to living on the edge of invasion (Turkish and Greek) and of economic disasters.
Something else that turns people away from DIKO is the belief that the party leadership has come to terms with the idea of partition despite not admitting it. The impression that DIKO considers, a priori, the settlement being put together unfair and unviable is widespread. It fails to point out what settlement is feasible and where the utopia it envisions lies. If this utopia exists why does it not tell us how we will get there, without pain, grief, bribery and rusfeti?
If DIKO’s message remains trivial, as it has nothing different to propose especially with regard to a Cyprus settlement, the historian of the future would probably write: “In the 20th century DIKO was a heavyweight boxer and the fear of all its opponents. In the 21st century its boxing status changed drastically – as a result of a significant loss of weight, it was relegated to the flyweight division.”
George Koumoullis is an economist and social scientist