THE MOST tediously boring and insipid election campaign in the history of Kyproulla wound up on Friday night, and mercifully there are just another five days left after tonight, when all the main five candidates will announce they were the moral victors and the important messages of the vote are analysed in the TV studios.
It is difficult to explain why this was such a dull campaign, but it definitely lacked the passion, fanaticism and nastiness of previous elections. The only thing suggesting there was actually an election campaign, for anyone who does not watch TV, were the Nicolas billboards.
The communications advisors that surround all the candidates seem to have had an undesirable civilising effect on them. The only one who seemed untouched by the image consultants was Nikolas 2018, who to his credit tried to introduce some nastiness and traditional Dikhead fanaticism in his campaigning, and we will know if this did him any good tonight.
One thing was clear. Public apathy was at an all-time high as the pitifully low viewer ratings of last Monday’s big debate showed. People just did not give a toss, which was a healthy sign considering that the main issue of the campaign was who would squander the most taxpayers’ money, a contest that was already won by Prez Nik, who has offered practical proof in the last year of what he can achieve in this field.
JUNIOR could also compete in this department if the point raised in the TV debate was anything to go by. For the last 10 years, Junior has declared a monthly income of 12 grand a month, totalling €1,440,000 for the decade, at the end of which his bank deposits were about 25 grand. This did not show economic management to win people’s confidence, said the hack.
It was a cheap shot by the hack because Junior was still living within his means, even though it put into perspective his concerns about the disappearance of the middle classes which he promised to restore if he was elected. None of the hacks dared ask the prez how his family law firm was doing and by how much its turnover had increased since his election. That would have been rude.
Perhaps the hacks did not want to provoke the prez, who was not his cocky self, looking haggard and worn out, shuffling through his papers and forgetting his words, probably suffering the effects of a punishing campaign schedule during which he attended three or four events a day.
His campaign team were relieved the increasingly blunder-prone Nik did not mess up on TV, even though he lacked sharpness and had a constantly raised eyebrow when speaking, raising questions whether he had been a victim of a botched Botox treatment. A skillful user of the raised eyebrow when he wants to make a point, it would be a pity if he has lost the use of this effective debating tool.
DULL as the campaign was it could still earn a place in Kyproulla’s political history as the only election campaign to trigger a bank run if the Central Bank and the finance ministry fail to stop the cash withdrawals from the Coop Central Bank (CBB) tomorrow. Nik would have a big share of the responsibility if the bank fails.
In two recorded TV interviews shown on Thursday night, he attacked the advisor of a candidate for writing to the pensions funds of two semi-governmental organisations to tell them to take their money out of the CCB. He mentioned no names, but tried to score political points by accusing the candidate’s campaign team of exploiting the matter.
He was “really saddened” by the rumours about the CCB being in trouble being spread by the rival candidate’s campaign team but had no qualms exploiting them to get one over his rival. If a candidate “has hesitation over protecting the best interests of the state and citizens, how will he serve them the next day if the aim is simply to take the (presidential) chair,” he declared with an air of moral superiority.
Had he not realised he was helping the spread of rumours by making the CCB’s woes an election issue and advertising on TV the fact that a rival candidate’s advisor had told two big clients to withdraw their money from the CCB? This was big news on Friday, when he revealed on a radio show that the candidate he was referring to was Junior.
Nik chose a very unorthodox way of protecting the CCB, not to mention the interests of the state and citizens.
THE POOR state of the CCB had been brought up by Junior campaign staff at meetings, but it was Nik that turned it into a big election issue. And he was not entirely correct in blaming Junior’s campaign staff because one of its members allegedly sent the letter in his professional capacity.
Nik was referring to Stelios Platis, one of his former advisors that joined Nikolas 2018, Platis issued a statement on Friday denying he had sent such a letter. The letter was sent by a company linked to companies in which Platis was a shareholder. The Prez may have been too eager to score political points and failed to get his facts right.
The question now is how, after all this fuss generated by the Prez, do you persuade people with deposits in the CCB, not to take all their dosh out? By way of reassurance, Nik said in the interview that of the €11.5 billion in deposits, €10 billion belonged to people with deposits below €100,000 which were insured by the state. He did not realise that mentioning this made matters worse.
Anyone with money in the CCB will withdraw it immediately after hearing the prez cite the deposit insurance scheme as reassurance. The scheme comes in to play when a bank collapses. And if this happened, how long would the depositor have to wait to get his cash, considering the state does not have €10 billion to cover the insured deposits?
Still, this was more reassuring than Nik giving a pledge that the money was safe.
RUMOURS about the problems of the CCB have been doing the rounds for months and the problems are directly linked to the state-owned bank’s failure to reduce its NPLs. Its chairman bailed out last year, not wanting to be associating with a failing bank.
And the reason it has failed is because it is state-owned, run by a government that does not want to be accused of repossessing properties of people who are not repaying their loans. In contrast to the other banks most of the CCB’s delinquent loans are held by individuals and turning the screw on them would not make Prez Nik very popular.
It appears that even though the government decided to turn the small bankrupt co-op banks into one normal bank, it wanted to keep their human face and carry on treating debt defaulters with compassion and understanding.
DESPITE its dullness, the campaign has come up with some catchy phrases and slogans. Prez Nik’s Cyprob assertion, made two weeks ago, was a classic in meaninglessness. “What I promised is that in the negotiations I would move within the bounds of national dignity,” he said at a memorial service.
Haravghi, on Wednesday, had a banner headline which declared, “Malas’ vision – a new epoch for the economy”. The comrades have not realised that a new epoch for the economy, endorsed and championed by Akel, is a sure-fire method for alienating people and losing votes. We do not have good memories of Akel’s old epoch for the economy, so why should we want a new one?
The slogans on the massive Nikolas 2018 billboard are less than inspired. “With the power of our generation” is about as meaningless as Nik’s “bounds of national dignity”, but his main slogan, “Change, Trustworthiness, Hope”, belongs to the older generation. Hope for what? That he would keep 10 per cent of the promises he made in his election campaign?
My friend Averof came up with the corniest phrase of the campaign, after Nik made a speech to the women’s wing of Disy known as Godisy. “Thirty-two years next to Nicos Anastasiades, I can honestly tell you I never felt jealous of him. Today, though, I was jealous because of the great love he collected from the women. But I have Maria [Averof’s wife].”
YIORKOS Lillikas meanwhile remains confident of going through to the run-off because he relies on 90 per cent of the silent majority. In an interview with Phil, he said opinion polls, that show him receiving 4 per cent of the vote were wrong, as nine out of 10 people refused to respond to pollsters. Polls that relied on responses of only 10 per cent of the population were bound to be wrong, he said.
Interestingly on Friday night at a gathering of some 16 people, half received text messages, from a sender known as ‘Dimoskopisi’ (opinion poll) which gave the results of a poll with a sample of 7,200 people. It allegedly found that Lillikas would come second in today’s election with a 24 per cent share of the vote, twice as much as Junior. Dimoskopisi did not say whether the 72,000 people had been approached and only 10 per cent responded.
DISSIDENT Dikheads are continuing the undermining of poor old Junior by holding their own election gatherings at which former leader Marios Garoyian is the main speaker. His speeches usually focus on attacking Junior’s new strategy on the Cyprob, an issue that Garoyian feels very strongly about. We do not know what Garoyian has been promised by his friend and fellow Limassolian, Nik, but I would not be surprised if he is the interior minister in a new Nik government as this would help his lucrative passport business.
I APOLOGISE I have not offered any advice about who you should vote for today, but this is because I think the most satisfactory outcome for today’s election would be for all the candidates to lose. Impossible, I know, but we still have the right to dream.