The movement behind an advertising campaign urging people not to cast a vote for any of the incumbent MPs standing for re-election in the upcoming legislative elections has stressed that it does not favour abstention.
In a statement circulated to the media, Panicos Panagi, the businessman financing the campaign – dubbed Neoi56 (New56) – said their overriding aim is for the public to telegraph through the ballot that it has grown weary of graft and corruption.
That the incumbent MPs voted for the 2013 ‘haircut’ legislation, or that for years they have refused to pass effective legislation on party financing transparency, are sufficient reasons to vote them out and replace them with new candidates, Panagi said.
“Sitting in the same chair [parliamentary seat] for too many years makes you stale and slowly entraps you in a system that is corrupt. And because this gluing to the chair is part of human nature, it is best that we take it to get upon ourselves rid of them.”
Panagi worked in the United Kingdom for years only to return to Cyprus and lose his money during the haircut.
He is operating through an advertising agency and a lawyer’s office.
Through ads on television and on the internet, the Neoi56 movement calls on people to vote in new people, irrespective of which party they are affiliated to.
“Abstention is not the solution,” their slogan goes.
The movement has endorsed an informal coalition of smaller parties called ‘Platform for Hope’.
‘Platform for Hope’ consists of the Animal Party of Cyprus, the Social Movement SIMEA (Flag), and the Union of Fighters for Justice (OAD).
The three parties are standing separately in the elections.
Earlier this month, the Cyprus Mail reported that a complaint had been made to the Cyprus Broadcasting Authority about Neoi56’s campaign ad.
The complaints were verbal, not in writing, chairman of the broadcasting authority Andreas Petrides said.
The broadcasting authority can only act on a complaint if it is lodged formally, he explained.
However it can also on its own initiative scrutinise television content. Petrides said that even before the ad aired on television, the channels had pre-emptively sent a copy to the broadcasting authority to vet it, to determine whether it constituted negative advertising.
The authority reviewed the clip and found it could not be deemed negative advertising, which is prohibited by law.
In contrast, the online version is more aggressive and could potentially be classified as an attack ad, Petrides said.
But the broadcasting authority has no authority over online content.
The internet version of the ad starts out with a herd of bleating sheep, then calls on viewers to “send home” the 56 current members of parliament.
Even though Neoi56 are themselves not running in the elections, it seems their message of defiance has ruffled the feathers of some politicians.
On the milder television ad, the Mail understands that the persons who called in to the broadcasting authority to complain were sitting MPs.
But they balked from lodging a formal complaint in writing, likely wary that in doing so their protestations would become public.