The backing of their leader, Giorgos Lillikas, as a presidential candidate in 2018 by the Citizens Alliance with 114 votes to 20, has sowed some dissent within the party and complicated possibilities for the centre, which is hoping to field an agreed nominee in the race.
A defiant Lillikas on Monday, a day after the vote by the party’s supreme senate backing him as their nominee, fended off criticisms suggesting it was too early for electioneering, that he was creating a conundrum for the centre space and that members of his own party disagreed with the vote.
According to reports, the reason some in the party voted against the move was mainly because they had issues with the content of the statement put out by the senate, but a handful of members made it clear they thought the vote should not have been taken until discussions had been completed with the other centrist parties, Diko, Edek, the Greens and Solidarity.
Diko leader Nicolas Papadopoulos, who has not indicated yet whether he might run in the elections, said on Saturday that if all the centrist parties banded together, they could beat Nicos Anastasiades, who also has not announced whether he will seek re-election. Papadopoulos also ruled out any alliance with left-wing Akel or ruling Disy for 2018.
The Citizens Alliance on Sunday left open the possibility of cooperating with Akel. Lillikas was a minister for the party in the Diko-Akel coalition in 2003, but chose to remain in Diko’s Tassos Papadopoulos camp when the alliance floundered, turning his back on Akel to retain his post.
On Monday, responding to statements by the government spokesman the previous day that it was too early for electioneering, Lillikas told CyBC radio that Anastasiades was the one who had kicked off campaigning by “cutting ribbons and satisfying the demands of certain quarters”.
“I believe Mr Anastasiades has long ago begun his presidential campaign. In 2012, he had announced his candidacy 13 months before the presidential elections, in 2013,” Lillikas said.
“We were waiting for the developments on the Cyprus issue. If the talks progressed to a solution and we entered in the process of a referendum, everyone’s priority would be the national issue. Since the talks have essentially frozen, and have reached a dead end, I believe that the election campaigns have begun for everyone.”
To a question that the Citizens Alliance appeared to have left open a window for cooperation with Akel where the other centre parties had ruled it out, he said: “No candidate has ever managed to get elected without the backing of the opposition. In 2003 there was one round because the late Tassos Papadopoulos was supported by all centrist parties and Akel. No other president, except Makarios, was elected either solely with Diko votes, or with centrist parties’ support only, or with Akel votes only,” Lillikas added.
Commenting on the apparent disagreement within his party over Sunday’s decision, Lillikas said this was respected, while pointing out however that it was the will of the majority that won the vote.
Also speaking to Cybc, dissenting party member Simos Angelides, said the disagreement had been political in nature. “The centre must agree a nomination for the sole purpose of ending the governance of Nicos Anastasiades,” he said.
“Our position was that first a political programme should be in place following a dialogue with the other centrist parties.”
He added that common principles and clear positions should be set before discussion begins on who fulfils the criteria. “But when it is put on the table ‘it’s either us or no one’ there cannot be an honest dialogue that would yield any results,” Angelides said.
He also said the backing of Akel, which destroyed the economy and has supported Anastasiades’ policies on the Cyprus issue for the past four years, should have been ruled out by the supreme senate resolution.
Akel leader Andros Kyprianou said on Monday the party would not take any decisions as regards the presidential elections until mid-July. “Politics is not a matter of mathematics,” Kyprianou said. “Akel will decide based on its political positions and it will not be drawn into any other process.”
Sigmalive cited sources on Monday saying the other centre parties respected the decision of the Citizens Alliance even though it was a step in the wrong direction for dialogue on a joint candidate. What happened next would depend on Lillikas’ willingness to step aside if they agree on someone else.
But Lillikas did not appear to think this would be an issue for him. He said his
party backed him based on two criteria: suitability of the candidate and the chances of his being elected. His party’s continuing consultations with the other centrist parties for an agreed candidate would be based on these, he said.
“The logic to agree on a single candidate is not enough if this candidate cannot get elected,” Lillikas said.
In a written statement after the vote on Sunday, the Citizen’s Alliance supreme senate laid out several reasons, from the Cyprus talks to the economy, as to why the polices of the Anastasiades’ government were bankrupt.
Change could only occur with a new president “who has a comprehensive assertive strategy, as submitted by the Citizens Alliance to the National Council in 2015,” that would “be able to bend Turkish intransigence and pave the way for a just solution”.
This proposed solution, according to the party, would allow “legitimate citizens of Cyprus to live in a free and sovereign Republic, enjoying all human rights and democratic freedoms in security and prosperity”.
Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots would live, work and collaborate seamlessly in mixed villages and cities and not as adjacent separate peoples, it added.
The supreme senate said it believed that Lillikas had what it took to win and that he would be embraced by the public and supported by those other political forces “that want to end the presidency of Nicos Anastasiades”.