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Disy sinks deeper into division

Disy meeting, elections 2023
File photo

President Nicos Anastasiades may take a public position on Friday in relation to the situation shaping up in the second round of the elections on Sunday after ruling Disy decided that party members should adopt a conscience vote between Nikos Christodoulides and Akel-backed Andreas Mavroyiannis.

Speaking with government sources, the Cyprus News Agency asked whether the president would take a public position, they said: “Possibly he will speak tomorrow”. Anastasiades is currently in Brussels for a European Council meeting.

Disy’s own candidate, Averof Neophytou lost the race in the first round last Sunday. The party, facing a stark choice between Christodoulides, a former party member and minister in the Anastasiades government who is running as an independent, but backed by rival parties, Diko, Edek and Depa, this week backed a free vote.

Many believe that backing Mavroyiannis would mean a return to power for left-wing Akel and ultimately ruinous economic policies.

However, Disy is finding itself even further divided between those who have said publicly they would vote for Christodoulides on Sunday to keep Akel out of power, and those who see Christodoulides as a traitor and back a conscience vote to keep Disy united, even as Anastasiades clearly favours backing his former minister.

Diko leader Nicolas Papadopoulos revealed on Thursday on CyBC that Anastasiades had called him on Sunday night and congratulated the party for its “effective support” for Christodoulides. Papadopoulos claimed that Anastasiades had limited himself to congratulations and said there was no other discussion regarding a Disy-Diko cooperation.

So far, Disy’s parliamentary spokesman and long-standing MP Nicos Tornaritis has come out in support of Christodoulides for the second round. Other big names to back the front-runner are former Health Minister Constantinos Ioannou, Agriculture Minister Costas Kadis and Education Minister Prodromos Prodromou.

On Thursday, they were joined by former justice minister Ionas Nicolaou and Nicosia Mayor Constantinos Yiorkadjis.

Nicolaou said he decided to take a public position after finding out that “the president of our party is in daily communication with the Akel candidate Mr Mavroyiannis and that he will vote for him”.

“This forces me to publicise my own political position,” said Nicolaou.

He said the preservation of the negotiations for a solution to the Cyprus issue, the deepening of strategic relations with states in the region and the US, European orientation and integration, fiscal discipline and stability were “unwavering priorities that cannot be exposed to Akel’s policies”.

“The result of the first Sunday of the presidential elections has put Disy in an unprecedented and unpleasant position. However, it is not the time to analyse the reasons for our electoral failure. It is time to ensure the unity of our party,” he added, agreeing with the conscience vote but saying that strategically, the vote needed to go to Christodoulides even though there was justified anger and frustration with the former party member. The third was to vote for neither but this would favour Mavroyiannis, he said.

Yiorkadjis, also came out with a statement on Thursday saying he would be voting for Christodoulides. The Nicosia mayor said he had voted for the Disy candidate Neophytou in the first round because of the “significant and substantial support that Nicosia received in the last ten years from the President of the Republic, the government and the competent ministers”.

However, as regards the second round, he said he was basing his decision to support Christodoulides in order for the country to “continue the safe and prudent economic policy and fiscal stability with social sensitivity, while preserving its European orientation”.

He also said he understood the disappointment over last Sunday’s results as well as the bitterness and anger that exists. “It’s normal to have these feelings, but bitterness and anger have never been good counsellors,” he said.

Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides has come out publicly in favour of Mavroyiannis because “now we are called to judge who will manage the Cyprus problem better and who will inspire the confidence of the international actors that we really want the solution of the Cyprus problem”.

“Mr Mavroyiannis is well-known and respected in the EU and the United Nations, and I do not agree with those who say that those concerned will pull back because he is an Akel candidate,” he added.

“I am ready to go overboard. I believe other colleagues have also spoken about going overboard, for example the finance minister. Someone has to take the step.”

Finance Minister Constantinos Petrides, although he did not come out and say who he would be voting for, said in an article in Phileleftheros on Wednesday that the group of parties supporting Christodoulides were no less dangerous for the economy.  He directly addressed Paphos Mayor Phedon Phedonas who has publicly called for support for Mavroyiannis saying: “I wouldn’t mind, my dear Phedon, to go beyond my limits for the benefit of the country. But I don’t think Akel is ready.”

Meanwhile, Interior Minister Nicos Nouris on Thursday bemoaned the fact that Disy party members were going around drumming up support for Mavroyiannis.

“Our [Disy’s] decision was based on the fact that, for different reasons, none of the two candidates could be officially supported by the Democratic Rally since they do not meet the conditions set by the party,” he said.

“On the one hand because the phenomena of defection cannot be applauded and on the other hand because the consequences of Akel’s were disastrous for the country.”

“Our decision was also accompanied by the commitment of the front-line executives to avoid public statements so that the climate does not escalate further and in order to show respect for the will and judgment of our friends and supporters in order to carry out the electoral process uninfluenced.”

Labour Minister Kyriacos Koushos made a similar statement but added that he can’t choose Mavroyiannis. “It is with regret that I find that some of the highest members of the leadership, in violation of the decision of the politburo, intervene and guide towards the candidate of their preference,” he said and alluded to the fact that the Disy leader was in daily contact with Mavroyiannis “which clearly demonstrate his preference”.

“I believe that he himself should be the first to respect the decision of the political bureau of the Democratic Rally,” Koushos added.

“We have never agreed on anything with Akel. We did not agree on the Cyprus issue, nor on the economy, nor on immigration, nor on the European and Western orientation of the country, nor on the reforms and progress of the country. And we’re never going to agree. I cannot in any way accept Akel to take over the governance of the country again”.

Neophytou later on Thursday issued a written announcement saying that regarding the rumours that were circulating, “I want to state categorically that the only contact, meeting or personal communication I had with both Mr Christodoulides and Mr Mavroyiannis, was last Monday and then at our offices in the presence of all the top leadership of the party.”

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