Diko seeks a ‘regulatory role’ in politics, but the party leader’s recent comments reveal why that should not happen
I watched with interest the interview of Nicolas Papadopoulos, president of the Democratic Party (Diko), given to Yiannis Kareklas of Sigma TV on Thursday, February 10.
I found the interview interesting, both in terms of what Nicolas Papadopoulos had to say and what he failed to say. I was also pleasantly surprised by Yiannis Kareklas who did not hesitate to pose pointed questions and insist on getting a meaningful response. I would be really glad to see other TV presenters adopting such a forthright approach. Only journalists can end the practice of most politicians formulating their positions based on what they think voters want to hear and, indeed, skillfully shaping their positions in such a way that each voter hears what they would like to hear. The classic manifestation of this is the reference to “a solution of the Cyprus problem, with the right content”. This form of deceiving the voters must stop, and journalists are the class of people who can end politicians’ tendency to mock and mislead voters.
Nicolas Papadopoulos’ interview (available for download) is worth seeing both for the principal things he said (or clearly implied) and the things he did not say.
He predicted that in 2023 Diko will govern or “co-govern” Cyprus and confirmed that he would like to lead that government, as president of the Republic. He also underlined Diko’s importance in maintaining its “regulatory role” in Cyprus’ politics. I confess that I do not understand how a political party, which in the last parliamentary elections secured 11.3 per cent of the cast, can legitimately have such goals and ambitions. In my own mind, such an ambition clashes brutally with my notion of democratic governance.
Of course, one could argue that we often see coalitions governing countries that are unquestionably democratic. I suppose that this is what Yiannis Kareklas had in mind when he posed his question on how a working alliance could be attained between Diko and Akel, given that the views of the two parties – both on the Cyprus issue and on the economy – are light years apart. Nikolas Papadopoulos replied to this question by saying that this is exactly what was achieved in the past, both in the case of Spyros Kyprianou and Tassos Papadopoulos. And, immediately afterwards, he was quick to underline what he said at Diko’s recent political conference: “There is no way I could compromise on positions of principle concerning the Cyprus issue. I promise you that, for as long as I am the president of this party, I will never betray Spyros Kyprianou or Tassos Papadopoulos”. He then clarified that neither the one positive vote, nor the rotating presidency on a common ballot paper, are positions acceptable to Diko. The truth is that in 2003, the election of his father as president (Glafcos Clerides was the alternative choice) was indeed achieved with Akel’s support.
One of Nicolas Papadopoulos’ key messages was the need for “change”, after Disy’s 10-year reign. However, to Yiannis Kareklas’ question on the specific elements of the Disy policy that will change in a Diko-Akel government, the answer was not clear and was confined to underlining the importance of adhering to the faithful implementation of the unanimous resolutions of the National Council on the Cyprus issue. He also stressed combating corruption and collusion, despite his admission that Diko’s criticism of Disy was occasionally excessive and that at no stage had Diko submitted specific comprehensive proposals on fighting corruption (and, I would add, that Diko chose to completely ignore the Panayiotides-Syrimis-Pissarides proposals on the crucial issue of the “wealth statements” of the politically exposed persons).
Responding to the interviewer’s remark that in respect of money laundering Tassos Papadopoulos and his law firm were “the first offenders” in the case of Slobodan Milosevic involving billions of dollars, Nicolas Papadopoulos emphatically said that “you must have read the decisions of the courts that have ruled that the Milosevic scandal has nothing to do with reality. It’s a myth.”
He did not specify which court decisions he was referring to. Personally, I am aware of the claim launched by the then president Tassos Papadopoulos before the District Court of Nicosia against the Financial Times, seeking compensation amounting to Cyprus pounds 250,000 for defamatory references involving him and his law office in acts of money laundering associated with Milosevic (in the July 27, 2002 issue of the paper). A similar appeal had been launched in England before an English court.
At the hearing before the Nicosia court, the lawyer and then partner of the president’s law office, Pambos Ioannides, did not rule out the possibility that their office had set up various companies that remitted large sums of money from Yugoslavia and confirmed that the shareholders and directors of these companies were partners and other executives of the law firm, but stressed that this was then a common practice in the case of offshore companies, and that these persons acted as trustees or nominees of the firm’s clients, without any knowledge of the nature of the transactions entered into and clearly without any knowledge that the transactions carried out could constitute a violation of the United Nations’ sanctions imposed on Yugoslavia. In the end, the claim – in Cyprus as well as in the UK – was withdrawn, following an agreement between the parties involved.
On Yiannis Kareklas’ suggestion that from 1974 to the late nineties, Diko systematically promoted favouritism, The Diko leader admitted that “at that stage the party was unprepared to govern, committed mistakes and in certain cases meritocracy was undermined”. He added, however, that “the extent of the current political interference in government has no precedent.” The new approach heralded by Nicolas Papadopoulos is to provide the voters with whatever they are seeking to secure, and he stressed that modern technology tools are already being employed to ascertain what voter needs are “in order to ensure that the party is in a position to respond to the needs of the people”.
His concluding remark was an admission that Cyprus is on the verge of partition and urgent measures need to be taken to cause pain to Turkey and thus force her to make concessions. On the crucial question of how little David would cause pain to Goliath, he referred to the possibility – which he believes we have – of imposing crushing sanctions on Turkey, through the European Union, and stressed that this is how his father managed to secure the accession of Cyprus into the European Union.
Regrettably, this is a grossly inaccurate statement, a distortion of historical reality. It is well known that the architect of Cyprus’ EU accession was Costas Simitis, while his minister Yiannos Kranidiotis served the role of the master builder, with the full support and backing of Glafcos Clerides and Giorgos Vassiliou. This feat was achieved on the basis of a clear understanding that Tassos Papadopoulos failed to honour. The breach of that agreement led to the loss of the moral advantage enjoyed until then by Greek Cypriots.
In 1974, as a result of misjudging the consequences of our actions, we were led into a devastating war. Today, the prospect of being led along new painful and destructive paths is once again on the horizon. Threatening the dissolution of the European Union as a way of resolving the political problem of Cyprus is a formula that is certain to backfire. Only a naïve or irresponsible politician can advocate such a course of action.
Christos Panayiotides is a regular columnist for the Sunday Mail and Alithia