After giving the matter a few weeks’ rest, the campaign teams of the candidates are once again calling for the removal of Interior Minister Constantinos Petrides from his post on the grounds of partisanship. Petrides is a Disy man, openly participating in President Anastasiades’ election campaign, instead of maintaining the impartiality expected from the minister with overall responsibility for the holding of elections, argued the spokespeople of the other candidates.
It was the second time in a few weeks they raised the issue. The first time was after Petrides had gone to the Anastasiades election HQ to answer questions from supporters. On Sunday he attended an election gathering of the Disy youth wing and photos of him mingling with participants were posted on social media, infuriating the Stavros Malas camp. In a terse announcement, it said that instead of stepping down so that a caretaker minister could be appointed Petrides had “the nerve to celebrate and engage in politics by raising the party flag.”
To ensure the “smooth operation of the electoral process”, the Malas camp urged Anastasiades to appoint a caretaker minister “as previous presidents had done.” This was a blunder as only one president appointed a caretaker interior minister – Glafcos Clerides in 1998 and he did not repeat this in the 2003 elections. No other president saw the need to appoint a caretaker for the elections but this did not stop candidates from repeating Malas’ demand. They had to go over the top, the Papadopoulos camp accusing Petrides of “showing the worst contempt for the institutions of the Republic,” while Edek spoke of “inconceivable and unprecedented practices.”
It defies belief that so much fuss was made about a minister, who is a political appointee and not some civil servant, participating in the campaign for the re-election of the president. In fact all Anastasiades’ ministers have been touring the countryside campaigning for their boss. As one newspaper asked yesterday, should a caretaker president be appointed given that Anastasiades was exploiting his position to boost his re-election bid? All the projects and expenditure his government have announced in the last few months are vote driven.
If there was even a hint of election fraud in the past the parties would have grounds to demand Petrides’ removal but the fact is after Makarios’ death there has never been the slightest question about the fairness of the election process. The civil servants of the interior ministry that run the elections have always performed the job impeccably and there is every reason to believe they will do so again this month, regardless of who is the minister.