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Our View: Will uniting independents provide something new for Cyprus elections?

achilleas demetriades
Presidential candidate Achilleas Demetriades

Four of the independent presidential candidates will meet again today in their attempt to join forces behind a single candidate. Achilleas Demetriades, Constantinos Christofides, Marios Eliades and Christodoulos Protopapas, who had lunch together last Friday, will meet for the third time today, indicating there is a genuine desire for cooperation in the elections.

Their thinking is that, as things stand, none of them has much chance of a good showing, let alone advancing to the second round of the elections, because people would consider backing an independent a wasted vote. They may have well thought out positions, clever ideas, speak candidly to the electorate and have no links to the discredited Anastasiades government, but none has winning potential on his own, which would turn away many sympathetic voters.

The process they have entered is not straightforward as we suspect each candidate would believe he is the one best-suited to stand. How will they decide who will be ‘the one’? Although no candidate has proposed the methodology that would be followed for choosing the candidate, there are already signs of disagreement according to a report in Tuesday’s Cyprus Mail. One candidate had said that “opinion polls have a role to play,” while another said that “qualitative measurements are very important.”

Then there would be the issue of an election programme. Admittedly it would easier for the individuals to make compromises on the programme as they do not have to persuade a party to follow them, but this does not mean there would be no differences – they would just be easier to overcome. There are no great ideological differences, all the candidates are Western-oriented, support an open economy, embrace the values of liberal democracy, want an end to corruption and see the necessity of a federal settlement.

In short, their only difference would be over who would represent them. Could they find a fifth person they could back, thus eliminating the major cause of disagreement among them? No outsider has been discussed but this is also a possibility, as long as he or she has no links to the Anastasiades government. This would, after all, be the main appeal of a candidate of the independents – no links to President Anastasiades, something that none of the party candidates could claim.

It remains to be seen whether there will would be an agreement among the independents, as this is something that has never happened before in elections. It is parties that join forces in an election, not stand-alone candidates, whose support base is limited, determined by each one’s individual qualities and ideas. Perhaps we will see something that has never happened before in presidential elections.

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