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Our View: Is Akel acting more democratically or showing weak leadership?

The central committee of Akel meets this weekend to discuss the proposal prepared by the political bureau for the presidential elections. The political bureau will give the central committee a choice of two candidates, both of whom, according to a party announcement, “can express the demand for progressive change in government and the expectations of the big majority of society for a new beginning at all levels in the country.”

It is the first time the party leadership has given the membership a choice of possible candidates for the presidential elections. In the past, the party leadership would make the decision and then get central committee and a party congress to ratify the chosen one. For the 2003 elections, for example, the Christofias leadership chose Tassos Papadopoulos and imposed him as the party candidate, despite strong opposition in the party ranks.

For these elections, the new leadership of Stefanos Stefanou has shown a surprising lack of decisiveness, giving the responsibility for choosing a candidate to members of the 105-member central committee, that would presumably give direction to the rank and file that will ratify the party’s candidacy in early June. Some could say the party is acting more democratically, but others could argue that this is a sign of a weak leadership that is afraid to back a candidate.

The two names discussed by the political bureau were lawyer Achilleas Demetriades, who has announced his decision to stand as an independent already, and chief negotiator, until a few days ago, Andreas Mavroyiannis who will, presumably, make his announcement only after he is officially endorsed by Akel. All reports indicate that the political bureau will recommend backing Mavroyiannis, a decision reached by small majority in the bureau, that is unlikely to be overturned by the central committee. If it is, it would be the first time it would happen. Then again, it is also be the first time the central committee has been given a choice between two possible candidates.

Perhaps the absence of unanimity at the political bureau could encourage central committee members to step out of line and ignore its proposal. There is a possibility members of the central committee would object to having as candidate a man who was President Anastasiades’ chief negotiator and is not without responsibility for the collapse of the conference at Crans-Montana, which turns out was the last opportunity to settle the Cyprus problem. It would be bizarre for Akel, which had blamed Anastasiades for the collapse at Crans-Montana, to make his chief lieutenant at the talks, its presidential candidate. Then again, this is the party that elected Tassos Papadopoulos to solve the Cyprus problem.

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