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Strange choices and timing seen in cabinet reshuffle

Tough challenges ahead for Prodromos Prodromou as education minister

The mini government reshuffle to take hold on Tuesday has buttressed the notion that ministers are increasingly operating as managers rather than seasoned technocrats who know their subject matter, a political analyst has told the Cyprus Mail.

The reshuffle was announced by President Nicos Anastasiades on Sunday and sees changes at the top of four ministries – finance, interior, education and transport– plus two government spokesmen and two commissioners, one for mountain development, the other for the environment.

“As examples we can cite Prodromos Prodromou’s upcoming appointment as education minister, or Disy MP Nicos Nouris – a pharmacist by trade and education – landing the key post of the interior ministry,” said the analyst, Christoforos Christoforou.

The choices for new government spokesman Kyriakos Kousios and deputy spokesman Panayiotis Sentonas are likewise odd. The former is a lawyer, while the latter is the current president of the Youth Board. Neither appear to have much experience with politics, at least not at the high level.

Ayia Napa mayor Yiannis Karousos has been given the transport ministry portfolio. Whereas he does have a background in tourism and business, his appointment raises eyebrows for entirely different reasons.

In public, Karousos has been steadfastly opposed to the proposed merger of Ayia Napa with Paralimni, Dherynia and Sotira.

With him out of municipal politics, it will perhaps be easier for the government to finesse its plans for reforming local administration through the creation of so-called clusters.

“One’s mind goes to a quid pro quo here,” Christoforou says.

Party-political calculations may also have factored into Karousos being whisked away from Ayia Napa.

Though Karousos was elected as an independent, he is a Disy man.

Should the proposed merger with Paralimni go ahead, due to sheer population numbers Paralimni would rule the roost in the emergent Famagusta cluster.

Paralimni has long stood a Disy stronghold, whereas Ayia Napa is more complicated. In the 2016 municipal elections in Ayia Napa, Disy got 32 per cent of the vote, while main opposition Akel came on top with 38 per cent.

Dherynia is likewise mostly Akel territory, with the party winning 54 per cent of the popular vote there in 2016.

The proposed fusion of Disy-dominated Paralimni with Ayia Napa, Dherynia and Sotira could arguably strengthen the conservative party’s grip on the Famagusta district.

But what is especially curious about the cabinet shakeup, relates to Constantinos Petrides’ transfer from the interior ministry to finance.

Harris Georgiades announced months ago he wanted to leave the finance ministry but appointing Petrides to the post comes just as the government presented its local government reform plan, announced by none other than Petrides on Monday.

The intended reform is a massive undertaking, fraught with logistical and legal issues. It is a policy drive which Petrides has led as interior minister – but now someone else entirely will be taking over.

“Petrides’ successor has to start from scratch, so to speak. One does wonder whether this is the most efficient or logical decision,” the analyst commented.

Meantime education minister Costas Hambiaouris has been effectively demoted to Mountain Communities Development Commissioner.

Stepping into his shoes will be Prodromos Prodromou, up until now the government spokesman.

A big question mark hangs over whether Prodromou is the right man for the job, says Christoforou.

“The role of education minister entails a great deal of compromise and conciliation – with the teachers unions, the parents, and so forth. Prodromou doesn’t exactly strike me as a conciliatory figure.”

Moreover, Prodromou’s political ideology – he gravitates toward a more nationalistic plank – could cause friction.

“The education ministry has always been an ideological battlefield,” the analyst notes.

“We shall have to wait and see whether trouble erupts under Prodromou’s watch.”

 


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