PRESIDENT Anastasiades may be right in accusing Akel of constantly mounting “nihilistic criticism” against him, but Akel is also right to accuse him of not behaving like a president but as the “worst version of a party leader”.
The low-brow exchanges between Anastasiades and Akel have been a daily occurrence for weeks, with the president unwilling to take a back-seat in the campaign for the European Parliament elections and leave Disy to answer Andros Kyprianou and his comrades.
Last Friday, speaking to a Disy election gathering, Anastasiades said, in a clear reference to Akel, “the zeros cannot talk about the excellent, or those that excelled,” in such a disparaging way, negating all the government’s achievements. It was not just an offensive remark, it was also incredibly arrogant, the president declaring himself as the infallible leader while dismissing the opposition party as worthless nobodies. His outburst did not go down well with the public who slammed his condescending, self-glorifying comments on social media.
Realising his faux pas, he and the government spokesman have been at pains to explain that he was only referring to the Akel leadership as “zeros” as in the same speech, he said “I respect absolutely the people of the Left that do not identify with what they hear every day from those that are leading them.” The presidential palace even issued a video of him making this remark to prove he “respects absolutely” all members of Akel who disagree with what their leadership says. In other words, he only respected a tiny minority of the people of the Left because the rest of them do indeed identify with the “zeros”.
This is not the worst to come out of the president’s mouth. His responses to Akel’s questioning of his handling of the Cyprus problem have been disgraceful, repeatedly accusing the party of siding with Turkey and providing justification for Turkey’s aggressive actions against Cyprus. Ironically, Anastasiades was the target of similar attacks when he was in opposition during the Papadopoulos presidency.
What is worst about his outbursts is not the offensive language or the regular resort to the last refuge of the scoundrel, but the intolerance he is displaying to legitimate political criticism. He demands praise from everyone and turns nasty against those who doubt he is one of the “excellent”. This is why he responds every day to Akel’s critical comments, either personally or through his spokesman, often resorting to language unbecoming of the president. He just cannot take political criticism and cannot even make allowances for the fact that we are in an election campaign and rhetoric is always more aggressive.
It is not as if he is new to Cyprus politics and does not know that this always happens during an election campaign. A rational president would stay out of an election campaign that has nothing to do with him. Instead, Anastasiades has shown he is incapable of showing restraint and loses control when he is criticised. These are not presidential qualities to inspire confidence.