WILL finance minister Harris Georgiades’ announcement that he will step down at the end of this year, ease the pressure on the government which has faced a barrage of criticism for failing to have him removed from his post, after the publication of the investigative report on the collapse of the co-op bank? The report concluded that Georgiades’ responsibility for the collapse was ‘severe’ and as a result everyone demanded his resignation, which was reportedly tendered but not accepted by President Anastasiades, who publicly expressed full confidence in his minister.
The resignation announcement will be viewed as some kind of compromise, a face-saving solution for both the minister and the president. Georgiades will step down of his own volition at the end of the year, thus maintaining the government line that he was not politically responsible for the collapse, while at the same time limiting the public pressure that was being applied. The government would be able to say the minister would leave at the end of the year if parties and media carry on calling of his head without accepting any of the responsibility attributed to him by the investigative committee’s report.
Anastasiades launched his most scathing attack on the committee’s conclusions on Thursday night, probably to underline there was no issue of political responsibility for the government. He could not accept that “because three (members of the investigative committee) decided without substantiating what they say, in order to safeguard institutions, Iphigenia must be sacrificed.” In another dig at the committee, he said “you cannot say that one plus one equals omega.” This attack was unnecessary, given that he had already stated that he disagreed with the findings of the committee.
In the end he showed himself no different from Demetris Christofias, who also refused to accept the conclusions of the investigative committee into the Mari explosion because it deemed him politically responsible. Perhaps Christofias was less diplomatic in his challenging of the report, but the reality is that neither accepted the findings of reports that did not suit them and made that abundantly clear. Back in 2011, Anastasiades lambasted Christofias for openly disputing the findings of the committee, even if the latter had forced his defence minister at the time to resign.
Despite the fighting talk, Anastasiades, the pragmatist, had bowed to the public pressure, particularly Diko’s threats that it would not back any government bills if Georgiades was not removed from his post. The government would not have been able to get any bill through the House without Diko’s backing. Whether the announcement of a departure date for Georgiades will be viewed as a satisfactory solution by Diko and the opposition parties will become apparent soon enough.