Speaking on a radio show on Tuesday morning, a representative of the Stavros Malas camp said that the candidate would not change or water down his positions in order to win the votes of another party in Sunday’s run-off. If voters wanted to back Malas, they would have to accept his election programme, he said. It was quite a bold statement considering what has gone on in the past with candidates often making about-turns to lock the support of one of the centre parties, in particular Diko.
A few hours later, Malas came out of a one-hour meeting with Diko leader Nicolas Papadopoulos that he described as ‘productive’. He also met Solidarity leader Eleni Theocharous at lunchtime and Citizens Alliance chief Giorgos Lillikas and Edek’s Marinos Sizopoulos in the afternoon. What would be the point of the meetings if he had no intention of modifying his positions in exchange for the support of these parties? Would he be offering them a share of the spoils of power? A ministry or two, the chairs of semi-governmental organisations, one of the commissioner posts?
President Anastasiades, an experienced political wheeler-dealer, spoke to party leaders on the phone. An announcement by his press office said he “conveyed his strong conviction that the day after the elections must find us united so we can face the challenges of the future.” This was in line with his stated intention to set up a government of broad acceptance if he won, a much more elegant way of saying he would offer ministries to whichever party backed him on Sunday.
In the 2013 elections Anastasiades watered down his positions on privatisations and the Cyprus problem (he appointed a hardliner approved by Diko as his negotiator) in order to forge an alliance with Diko. In 2008 Demetris Christofias struck a deal with Diko and Edek but it collapsed when the parties decided he made too many concessions on the Cyprus talks.
The parties of the so-called centre and in particular Diko have had a much bigger influence on governments in the last 10 years than their electoral strength justifies. In fact, the only time since 1993 that Diko was excluded from power was during Glafcos Clerides’ second term, from 1998 to 2003. There is something politically unhealthy when a party that commands 15 per cent of the popular vote regularly imposes its diktats on the president. Admittedly, Diko has walked out of both the previous governments, mid-term, only after causing unnecessary disruption.
Perhaps things will be different this time and there will be a government without Diko’s toxic influence for the first time since 2003.