AKEL chief Andros Kyprianou and Mike Spanos were all smiles and in good cheer when they jointly announced, on Thursday, they had failed to reach an election deal. It was a very, civilised way to behave – no hint of resentment or bitterness from either was on display – but this took nothing away from the fact that the Akel leadership had committed an embarrassing blunder, which suggested the party is no longer the force it once was.
Although there had been a complete identity of views on the Cyprus problem, their differences on economic matters were unbridgeable and, according to Kyprianou, “did not allow us to arrive at a mutually desired result.” Spanos’ support for the free market, a smaller state and lower taxes, which he expressed during a television interview last week, reportedly did not go down well with the party, as these were neo-liberal ideas that are anathema to the communists. Akel is a party that routinely uses the label ‘neo-liberal’ as a term of abuse and could not have someone embracing the ideology as its candidate.
To his credit, Spanos refused to water down his beliefs on how to run the economy or to lie about them in order to satisfy his prospective backers and the deal fell through. This was another example of party incompetence. The candidacy had been approved by the Akel political bureau and the central committee without the party leadership agreeing a policy programme with the man they would have backed for the presidency. They were on the verge of calling a party congress to secure the backing of the party members, only to realise, at the last minute, that their candidate did not share their antiquated economic views and was not prepared to pretend that he did.
It was an incredible blunder, by Akel, which is supposedly well-organised and methodical, an indication that the once mighty party is falling apart. That it wanted a businessman as its candidate, because a party member could not have been trusted running the economy by the electorate, after the Christofias disaster years, was an illustration of how it has lost its way. Now, whichever person it decides to back would be regarded its second choice or a fall-back candidate.
Worse still, would be the fact that even if the candidate, who is eventually found, is not a party member, he or she would certainly not be regarded as an independent. He or she would be considered an Akel puppet, as the party has proved it was not prepared to back a truly independent candidate.