The election campaign team of presidential candidate Nikos Christodoulides opted for total radio silence on Monday amid a swirling political uproar after reveals about a ‘secret deal’ he struck up with his main backers, junior opposition party Diko.
Calls placed to the candidate’s campaign HQs in Nicosia and Limassol were not returned, while the team put out no statement through news agencies or social media.
Meantime Christodoulides’ political adversaries – in particular ruling party Disy – pressed the candidate as well as Diko to come clean about the alleged agreement, uncovered by daily Politis a day earlier.
The paper ran a story about an alleged leaked memo – along with screenshots – drafted by Diko, purporting to set the conditions for the party’s election partnership with Christodoulides.
The Diko memo purportedly dates to April of this year. Highlights included a commitment binding Christodoulides not to set up his own party in the event of failure to make it to the runoff ballot or win the elections.
Diko itself has denied the existence of such a memo, accusing Politis of ‘tabloid journalism’ and of outright fabricating the document.
On Monday, Disy turned up the heat on Christodoulides, seeking to portray his candidacy as an artificial construct and the product of wheeler-dealing.
In a video released to the media, the election campaign spokesperson for Disy candidate Averof Neophytou sought to sow discord among Christodoulides’ backers – the Diko, Edek and Dipa parties.
“Mr Christodoulides agreed other things with Nicolas Papadopoulos, other things with Marinos Sizopoulos, and other things with Marios Garoyian,” the spokesperson said.
“That is why he refuses to make public these agreements. What emerges from his secret deal with Diko, is that he has become the weak link in the joint venture of interests backing him.”
The statement went on to say that, should Christodoulides win the presidency, he would waste all his time balancing the differences among the parties that support him.
“That is a recipe for total lack of governance. This will not be a government of national unity, but a government of national miscommunication. Cyprus needs a leadership that solves problems, not one that creates problems.”
Chiming in, Disy MP Fotini Tsiridou said Diko’s denials of the alleged secret pact ring hollow. She recalled how back in June Diko leader Papadopoulos had announced that his party prepared an outline for a political platform in their partnership with Christodoulides.
“Is this what Politis published, or is it something else?”
Tsiridou likewise twisted the knife in: “But another question arises. Are the other parties aware what Nikos Christodoulides has agreed with each one of them? Does Edek know what Christodoulides agreed with Dipa? Does Dipa know what has been agreed with Edek? And do all these know what has been agreed with Diko, with Eleni Theocharous, with the hunters [association]?”
On his part, Papadopoulos doubled down on his contention that the leaked memo is a fabrication. In a new Tweet on Monday, the Diko boss referred to newspapers reproducing the story as “parrots.”
He added: “They [Christodoulides’ adversaries] think they’ll win the elections by lying.”
Meantime other media reported that on Monday Diko hastily convened a meeting of cadres to discuss the reveals and propose a course of action. Options considered included reporting the affair to the Ethics Committee or even filing a lawsuit.
The alleged memo effectively described how Diko should massage its public differences with Christodoulides on a number of issues – such as on the Cyprus peace talks. It also identified potential public perception problems for the candidacy, in that Christodoulides had until not long ago been part of the Nicos Anastasiades administration, embroiled for example in the controversial ‘golden passports’ affair.
The memo was ostensibly drafted in April – the same month that Diko announced an impasse in their talks with Akel to find common ground ahead of the elections.
Later, in June, Diko head Papapopoulos announced they had clinched a deal with Christodoulides to partner up for the coming elections.
And in August, Akel leader Stefanos Stefanou claimed he had been sounded out by Papadopoulos as far back as October of 2021 regarding a potential collaboration with Christodoulides as their common candidate.
At the time, Stefanou said the “game was rigged,” meaning that Diko and Christodoulides had agreed to ally long before the election campaign got underway – and while Christodoulides still served as foreign minister in the current administration.
Christodoulides, now running as an ‘independent’, has consistently led in opinion polls, and by a wide margin. In the latest survey published earlier this month, he garnered 30.5 per cent, trailed by Neophytou at 20.5 percent and Akel candidate Andreas Mavroyiannis at 17.5 per cent.