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Cyprus

Solidarity members defy leader to support Anastasiades

Eleni Theocharous with House president Demetris Syllouris

Over 130 members of Solidarity on Friday publicly expressed dissent with their party’s decision to back Diko leader Nicolas Papadopoulos for president in January’s election, instead voicing support for incumbent Nicos Anastasiades.

Solidarity was formed in January 2016 when prominent Disy official Eleni Theocharous left the ruling party to form her own in a bid to represent the more assertive part of its voter base. She joined forces with Evroko, whose leader Demetris Syllouris had followed a similar trajectory more than a decade earlier.

Breaking completely from Disy, Solidarity soon affiliated itself with presumptive presidential candidate Papadopoulos, who claims to embody the ‘assertive’ or ‘patriotic’ – to others, rejectionist – approach to the Cyprus problem talks.

But in a surprising twist, following the legislative elections of May 2016, Disy decided to back Syllouris for House Speaker, ostensibly to avoid Akel leader Andros Kyprianou from clinching the post.

Press reports at the time suggested that Anastasiades had masterminded the move behind the curtains, thus turning a former foe to an ally.

In a statement on Friday, 133 Solidarity members, identifying themselves as “in our vast majority, former officials and members of Evroko”, said they disapproved of leader Eleni Theocharous’ personal decision to back Papadopoulos.

“We unequivocally position ourselves in favour of the candidacy of Nicos Anastasiades, who we believe secures the best possible course for our country,” the dissidents said.

“Our decision was based on our concern and the precedence we place on safeguarding the interests of Cyprus, which we firmly believe should outweigh any one individual’s ambitions and pursuits.”

Evroko was formed in 2005 by former Disy rising stars Syllouris, imprisoned former deputy Attorney-General Rikkos Erotokritou, and Prodromos Prodromou – now back at Disy as press spokesman – as well as rejectionist Neoi Orizontes, who has since joined Yiorgos Lillikas’ Citizens’ Alliance.

The Disy defectors had clashed with then Disy leader Anastasiades over his backing of the Annan Plan, which they vehemently opposed, resulting in their departure from the party.

In a statement of response, Solidarity announced that “the real names on the list are 126, as some have been written twice and some are not even members”.

“The majority of these people have had no relationship with Solidarity, in the party’s two years of existence,” the statement said.

“We have never seen them.”

Several others, the party said, had no such relationship with Evroko, either.

“They were one-occasion members for the 2011 intra-party elections and have had no activity or relationship either with Evroko or Solidarity.”

Further, of the 126, 83 of these people had been nominated as party members by Rikkos Erotokritou, and 13 more by a recently fired party employee who had been a close associate of the former deputy AG.

“We have also been told by people whose names are on the list, they were never asked for consent and were informed about it from us,” Solidarity said.

“Besides, the statement in question does not even bear any signatures.”

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