Mothballed politician Nicos Katsourides may soon be fully reinstated into Akel, in a move that is hoped will give the party’s candidate a crucial boost ahead of January’s presidential elections.
Reports say Katsourides, a veteran Akel cadre who was expelled from Akel’s collective organs in May 2015, has been in talks with his party over the past few weeks.
An announcement on Katsourides’ return could be imminent, daily Politis said.
In May 2015 Akel had indefinitely suspended the 66-year-old over his alleged involvement in the Dromolaxia scandal, but stopped short of putting Katsourides out to pasture.
Now, quarters within the party feel a Katsourides comeback would help further rally the Akel rank and file, giving them an edge to leapfrog Diko’s Nicolas Papadopoulos and make it to the runoff ballot.
Polls show that Akel-backed candidate Stavros Malas would edge ahead of Papadopoulos in the first round, but it will be close. Incumbent president Nicos Anastasiades is well ahead of the other candidates and is assured of a place in the second round.
Katsourides is understood to be liked by many among the Akel grass roots, who have been pressuring the party leadership to rethink its decision to pigeonhole him.
Akel leader Andros Kyprianou is said to be in favour of welcoming back the prodigal son, but will need to convince party bigwigs.
The only stumbling block are the optics: Katsourides is keen to return to active duty, but wants Akel to put out a statement first before he announces his backing for candidate Malas. Akel, on the other hand, would like Katsourides to make the first move.
Malas, who theoretically is running as an independent but is backed by Akel, would also like Katsourides to join the campaign effort.
The two sides have been coy about the matter, but reports suggest that a deal could be in the bag this week or the next.
Relations have thawed over the past few weeks, marking a dramatic twist in this election cycle. It was only in April that rumours had been floating that Katsourides could be anointed as the candidate of the so-called ‘centre parties’ – Diko, Edek and the Citizens Alliance.
That all collapsed when these parties failed to find a common candidate and decided to go it alone.
Subsequently, reports surfaced intimating that Katsourides was in contact with the Papadopoulos camp.
Akel had suspended Katsourides because of his alleged involvement in the land scam concerning the purchase by the CyTA Pension Fund of Turkish Cypriot property in Dromolaxia, Larnaca, and the construction of an office space complex at an inflated price, which saw five people convicted in January 2015, including Akel member Venizelos Zanettos.
Zanettos, who was sentenced to three-and-a-half years in prison after he was found guilty of extorting money from a businessman, had said in his court testimony that Katsourides was also involved.
Prior to Katsourides’ suspension, a party statement said that its Central Committee had found “mistakes, omissions, and culpability on behalf of members, and has made decisions that would be made known to the party soon.”
Yet at the same Akel claimed the party had nothing to do with the scandal and that any involvement was “invented by political adversaries to be-smirch the party name.” The party has always maintained that Zanettos was wrongfully accused.