Cyprus Mail

Opposition parties cry foul over Syllouris’ election

THE unlikely result of Thursday’s vote for House Speaker, which saw Solidarity Movement MP Demetris Syllouris clinch a surprise win after being supported by ruling DISY, prompted cries of foul by opposition parties on Friday, which lambasted President Nicos Anastasiades’ meddling in the affair.

The election process, which was dragged out to the maximum of three voting rounds, saw main opposition AKEL’s leader Andros Kyprianou garner his party’s 16 votes, trailing EDEK leader Marinos Sizopoulos’ 17 – with nine from DIKO, three from the Citizens’ Alliance, and two from the Greens, adding to EDEK’s three votes – but Syllouris, initially tallying his party’s three votes, won the race with DISY’s 18 votes, for a total of 21.

The vote followed frantic deliberations between parties, with the direct involvement of President Nicos Anastasiades, who reportedly made the decision for DISY to back Syllouris, a long-time personal foe of the president since the days of the 2004 Annan plan referendum, over Sizopoulos.

In so doing, Anastasiades overruled a reluctant Neophytou, who eyed backing Kyprianou more favourably for fear of alienating DISY’s voters.

Syllouris, it later emerged, had warned Neophytou that, if DISY refused to back him in the crucial final vote, he would cast Solidarity’s three votes on Sizopoulos, thus making him House Speaker – a non-starter for Anastasiades.

“Despite declaring throughout the process that its key criterion was the Cyprus problem, DISY went precisely the other way in the end, voting for a party of ‘mutiny’,” AKEL spokesman Stefanos Stefanou said on Friday.

He was referring to both the Solidarity movement, created and headed by Eleni Theocharous, a Cyprus-problem hardliner who left DISY shortly before last month’s parliamentary elections, and Syllouris’ EVROKO, which disbanded and was folded into Solidarity weeks earlier. EVROKO was created by Syllouris, also shortly after leaving DISY in 2004, in dissent to DISY’s pro-federation model for a settlement of the Cyprus problem.

“It is well-known that Mr Syllouris and his party reject the Greek Cypriot side’s stated desire for a federal solution,” Stefanou said.

Referring to Syllouris’ threat to DISY that, barring being elected, he would deliver the Speaker’s seat to Sizopoulos, EDEK said it was only indicative of how the government and the ruling party’s leadership might respond to threats.

“It is particularly alarming that DISY’s top officials admitted that Syllouris’ candidacy was backed as a result of blackmail,” said EDEK spokeswoman Maria Panayiotou.

“It begs a serious question: if it caves to extortion on such simple matters, how likely is it that it won’t cave to extortion on a much greater scale, regarding issues of the economy or the Cyprus problem?”

Meanwhile, the so-called ‘centre’ parties that backed Sizopoulos’ failed bid, blasted the Solidarity movement for abandoning the budding coalition at the last minute.

“Unfortunately, for reasons it can only explain itself, Solidarity opted to distance itself from this effort and elect the House Speaker in cooperation with DISY,” DIKO spokesman Yiorgos Georgiou said.

“We wonder if [Solidarity] is a party of the opposition or the government,” Citizens’ Alliance deputy spokesman Andreas Apostolou said.

“It appears that many of Solidarity’s top officials have been acting as satellites of the Anastasiades and DISY government.”

Theocharous rejected the charge, saying Solidarity defines itself not as a ‘centre’ party but as a patriotic one.

“And the patriotic front includes not only parties from the centre,” she shot back.

“It includes patriotic citizens from AKEL and DISY, as well as citizens who abstain from voting.”

Theocharous said the movement gave and received nothing in return for DISY’s backing of Syllouris.

“This will be proven in time, through the actions of the movement’s deputies,” she said, suggesting they will not back DISY and the government’s initiatives blindly.

DISY countered the accusations in a statement claiming it was in fact the only party willing to seek conciliatory candidacies, but faced intransigence from all other parties.

“DIKO ruled out its own interest to claim the position and sought to promote a ‘coalition of the centre’ by backing EDEK’s leader,” DISY said.

“Obviously, EDEK would not enter discussion, while AKEL dismissed any notion of co-operation after it decided to back its leader and refuse further options. DISY, thus, was aware that the Solidarity movement had decided to back Mr Sizopoulos, if Mr Syllouris was not elected.”

So, DISY was left with two options – backing Syllouris, or backing Sizopoulos, the party said.

“It chose Mr Syllouris over Mr Sizopoulos, purely on political merit,” it added.

“It was, indeed, a political leap, because DISY voted for a deputy from an opposition party created recently from within its own ranks. But it was a relative choice, because we couldn’t have gotten our own candidate elected.”

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