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Our View: A crowded centre jostling to stand in the 2018 elections

Nicolas Papadopoulos and Eleni Theocharous after their meeting on Friday

DIKO leader Nicholas Papadopoulos appears to have gradually taken the lead in the race for the presidential candidacy of the rejectionist front, although he has not yet officially announced he will stand. For now he is having consultations with the rest of the parties of the in-between political space as it has come to be known. It has also been labelled the “patriotic space” by Dr Eleni Theocharous who sees the parties which support a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation – Akel and Disy – as conclusively unpatriotic.

Papadopoulos and Theocharous met on Friday and agreed on the setting up of a joint working group that would draft a policy declaration on which co-operation in the elections would be based. Whether the rest of the parties will, at some stage, join the working group is unclear. Only once this has been done will the two parties engage in discussions as to their candidate, even though it seems likely it will be Papadopoulos, whose party is much bigger than Theocharous’ Solidarity.

It is very possible they will be joined by Edek, even though party chief Marinos Sizopolous did not rule out his candidacy. He also believed that first there should be a political agreement of co-operation before the “patriotic space” moved on to the “methodology that we would follow to decide the candidate that would have the most hopes and chances of success.” Interestingly, the leader of the Citizens Alliance, Yiorgos Lilliaks, who has made clear his desire to be a candidate, has already declared that surveys showed he had the best chance of defeating Nicos Anastasiades in run-off election.

Dr Theocharous did not rule herself out of the running either, but all indications are that she has reached a pact with Papadopoulos. “If it is not me, I will back with all my powers the person who would be chosen as candidate,” she said. One thing is clear: there is no shortage of party leaders willing to stand as the candidate of the patriotic rejectionist camp. Whoever it is will have a big problem differentiating himself/herself from President Anastasiades who appears to have abandoned any plans to reach a deal on the Cyprus problem.

What will the rejectionist candidate have to offer the voters if Anastasiades has not reached a deal? Will they promise to maintain the talks’ deadlock more securely than Anastasiades? All candidates will be rejectionists, because if Anastasiades messes up the current process, which is looking a very real possibility, he cannot stand as a pro-settlement candidate. It would then be the first presidential election in which the Cyprus problem is not an issue of the campaign, as all the candidates would be against a settlement.

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