IN the aftermath of the 2004 referendum, Nicos Anastasiades, the then leader of Disy and supporter of the Annan plan, became the target of the Papadopoulos government and the rest of the ‘no’ campaigners. People were frequently reminded that Anastasiades had reported the Republic to the European Commission – he had written complaining about the undemocratic conditions prevailing before the referendum – the implication being that he betrayed his country.
He was also accused of speaking of behalf of the Turkish side, when he criticised then president Papadopoulos of his handling of the Cyprus problem, and of lacking patriotism. Fanaticism and intolerance marked public discourse with society divided into ‘patriots’ and the ‘agents of foreign interests’, the latter becoming the target of a government-supported witch-hunt. It was a terrible period in our recent history which unfolded soon after Cyprus joined the EU.
This is why it is shocking to now hear Anastasiades, who had been a target of this appalling hate campaign, resorting to similar tactics when responding to criticism by Akel about the Cyprus problem. On Sunday, he responded to criticism that he raised issues which negated convergences and were outside the Guterres framework by saying: “I would like to give Akel a word of advice. Let it take into account that it is also speaks for the Greek Cypriots.”
The insinuation was that Akel was siding with the Turks because it was critical of the president’s actions and words. But there are plenty of Greek Cypriots that fully agree with the party’s criticism of Anastasiades’ erratic handling of the national issue. Are we returning to the era when criticism of the president’s choices is dismissed as lack of patriotism and a case of siding with the Turkish side? What sort of democracy would we have if everyone is obliged to applaud everything the president says, or stay silent when he disagrees for fear of being labeled a traitor?
Of course, it should be noted that Akel are no innocents in this regard. The party often used the technique of public vilification of its critics, by labeling them foreign agents or US lackeys if they supported a Western peace initiative. In a way, the communists are now being given a taste of their own medicine even though this is no defence of Anastasiades’ comment. It was not the first time he resorted to this type of language. During the campaign for the European Parliament elections, he accused Akel of pandering to the Turkish Cypriots “for the sake of borrowed votes”.
This is no way for the president to speak, unless he wants to recreate the toxic climate that existed after the referendum.