As he approaches the final year of his second term, President Nicos Anastasiades seems to be spending an inordinate amount of time defending himself and dealing with his critics. On Wednesday, the director of the president’s office, Petros Demetriou, read a 12-page document, at the House ethics committee, that was Anastasiades’ answer to allegations about his law office that was featured in the Pandora Papers and became the subjects of reports in the foreign press.
The document made reference to the reports in The Guardian newspaper and the BBC, which said that his law office had helped clients set up shell companies and trust funds with the aim of money laundering among other things. It pointed out that the president’s name was never mentioned in connection with these activities and that the above-mentioned news organisations made clear that Anastasiades was not personally involved.
We were also reminded that since he became leader of Disy in 1997 he had no involvement at all in his law office. It was not the first time Anastasiades had issued these denials, insisting he had done nothing wrong, the golden passports saga also generating a plethora of defensive, but unconvincing statements.
This has also been the theme on his discourse on the Cyprus problem. Recently he has been spending much of his time denying accusations that he had mishandled the peace talks at Crans-Montana in 2017, which resulted in a collapse, giving rise to a four-year deadlock and the opening of Famagusta for settlement. He has been at pains to ‘prove’ that he was not to blame for any of this, even though in this case he could not pass the responsibility to his law office.
It is becoming very tiring listening to the president desperately defending himself and passing on responsibility for his mistakes. This is not the way to salvage something of his battered reputation in his last year in office. He should focus on providing leadership, helping ministers get the many pending reforms through parliament and deal with the big issues such as migration and the pandemic, all of which have been sidelined. He has even allowed his foreign minister to engage in a covert campaign for the presidential elections, falling out with his ministerial colleagues and causing divisions in Disy.
This obsession with his personal standing has left the government without leadership or direction. Anastasiades needs to get his priorities straight, because otherwise his last year in office will prove even worse for him than the one before.