Cyprus Mail
CM Regular ColumnistFeaturedOpinion

Governance shortcomings that must be urgently rectified


 The system of governance in Cyprus is based on the 1960 constitution and is meant to be a presidential (as opposed to a parliamentary) system. The system, originally introduced under the London-Zurich agreements, was forcefully modified in 1963/64 as a result of the attempts of Archbishop Makarios to streamline the constitution and the withdrawal of the Turkish Cypriots into enclaves.

The separation of the two communities was completed by the Turkish invasion in 1974. From this point onwards, the government (including all the governance-linked institutions) was under the absolute control of the Greek Cypriots and the constitution was practically amended by the force of the law of necessity. The seed of collusion planted in the independence struggle of the 1950s, and cultivated in the first decade after independence, flourished in the ensuing years.

The economic and political insecurity which followed the invasion had a far-reaching impact on the character of Cypriots. They set aside moral values, hard-working habits, frugality and philotimo (all characteristic elements of Cypriot behaviour) and replaced them with money-chasing, individualism and consumerism. Moral values were gradually displaced and were substituted by the motto “your death is a prerequisite of my survival”.

Thus, rusfeti entered our lives – a feature that was embraced with great enthusiasm, extending over the entire political spectrum and also by the Orthodox Church, which often served as standard bearer on this slippery road. The combination of rusfeti with the thirst for easy profit-making and the disengagement from every form of moral inhibition led to widespread corruption. The protagonists were politicians and religious leaders but also encompassed lawyers and accountants, doctors, contractors and engineers, bankers, casino and stock exchange gamblers, to name just a few groups. The irony is that the protagonists in this game of corruption and collusion are those who tear at their clothes and scream in favour of ending the galloping decadence of society but whose sole objective is to perpetuate it to serve their indecent goals.

We are in a typical vicious circle where those involved in corruption and collusion are called upon to save the day. Breaking this circle is difficult but it can be done by mobilising those who are not involved. By “mobilising” I do not refer to pompous declarations of intent, which are empty of content. I refer to specific, practical steps that can be taken step-by-step to gradually deliver the much-desired catharsis.

The two large political parties must lead this sanitising effort, by setting aside their narrowly defined party interests and by focusing on action rather than on words. These steps must certainly include the necessary legislative interventions, which will lead to the smooth and effective functioning of the system obliging politically exposed persons (PEPs) to explain and justify their sources of wealth (what is commonly referred to in Greek as “pothen esches”).

In the medium-term, though, we must press on with the necessary constitutional changes that would address the problem of the lack of governance, which has been a consistent feature since the founding of the Republic. It stems from the fact that the governing party never has the necessary parliamentary majority to implement its pre-election manifesto and commitments. This situation leads to absurd statements of the type “you either adopt our own economic policies or we refuse to approve the state budget” to which the government responds by saying that “it is unfeasible to adopt economic positions that fundamentally differ from those of our pre-election manifesto” and the opposition closing the discussion by saying “that is your problem!”

To start with, I see no problem whatsoever in merging the presidential with the parliamentary elections. Beyond the obvious reason of saving a substantial sum of money and avoiding the economic and social disruption caused by two election-processes following each other, the current arrangement inevitably results in a greater disparity between the political power of the executive and that of the legislative arm of the state. It leads to a total inability to find a modus operandi without resorting to under-the-table opaque deals of questionable moral standing. One reason for the electoral swing between the presidential and the parliamentary elections is – no doubt – what is often referred to as the “protest vote”, but of at least equal importance is the fragmentation and dispersion of the voters across the whole of the political spectrum, on the basis of deals of dubious morality, which are seen in the parliamentary elections.

Practical examples of easily implementable corrective actions that can be taken without delay are the following:

Fix the system of the statements of wealth of the politically exposed persons in a manner that the citizens of this country can make sense of what is being declared (rather than the rubbish that is being thrown at them under the system currently in force).

Set as a precondition for electing or appointing a PEP, the compilation and the publication of a joint statement of their statement of wealth with that of their spouse and under-age children. There is no point in electing or appointing (in good faith) a thief to an important position and finding out about their glorious past after the event and then start looking for ways of locking them up in a prison. Branded thieves should not have the right to be candidates in any election or appointment process for any public position.

Make it abundantly clear to all the suppliers of goods and services that offering bribes disqualify them for life from serving as suppliers of the state.

Make it abundantly clear to all elected or appointed state officials that accepting a bribe will result in their dismissal and loss of any retirement benefits.

Introduce systems that will promptly detect and confirm irregularities but will also protect innocent people from unfounded accusations.

Explain to his Beatitude (who has stated that “we must convince those stealing that they must discontinue such practices”) that when it comes to thieves we do not convince them not to steal but we force delinquent people out of such habits.

The publication of the celebrated “Georghadjis List” (which I have strongly advocated) is a welcome development. It is a refreshing injection of transparency (in contrast to having the perpetrators censoring the information). The plan announced by the government on Friday to combat corruption and collusion is a very ambitious plan, which will take years to implement in full. In the meantime, stand-alone problems such as that of the “pothen esches” should be fixed as a matter of priority.

The history of mankind is full of civilisations that have declined and vanished under conditions similar to those currently prevailing in Cyprus. Let’s take the necessary corrective measures while there is still time. If we go on the basis of what we hear – “that we all need to stop stealing” – our survival prospects are not particularly bright.


Christos Panayiotides is a regular columnist for the Cyprus Mail, Sunday Mail and Alithia



PRESIDENTIAL & PARLIAMENTARY ELECTION RESULTS, 2017 & 2016 Seats % of Seats Parliament 2016 Presidential 2017
Α Round Β Round
DI.SY. 18 32.1% 30.7% 35.5% 56.0%
A.K.E.L. 16 28.6% 25.7% 30.2% 44.0%
DI.KO. 7 12.5% 14.5% 25.7%
DEM.FOR. (detached from DI.KO.) 3 5.4% 0.0%
EDEK (Sizopoulos Marinos) 3 5.4% 6.2%
Solidarity 2 3.6% 5.2%
Theocharous Eleni* 1 1.8% 0.0%
E.LA.M. (Christou Christos) 2 3.6% 3.7% 5.7%
Environmentalists (Giorgos Perdikes) 2 3.6% 4.8%
Lillikas Georgios 1 1.8% 6.0% 2.2%
Theologou Anna 1 1.8% 0.0%
Under the threshold (3%) 0 0.0% 3.2% 0.7%
56 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 100.0%
(*) 1 seat vacant after multiple annulment decisions of the electoral court



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