Current Disy leader Averof Neophytou on Tuesday bowed out of the race for the next party leader on Tuesday, in what has narrowed down to a face-off between House President Annita Demetriou and MP Demetris Demetriou.

In last-minute turn of events, along with Neophytou, deputy party leader Harris Georgiades also withdrew from the running.

Both Neophytou and the House president said that their moves were motivated by the need for unity in the party.

Candidacies were submitted ahead of a party vote on March 11.

First to put his name forward was Demetris Demetriou, who resigned from the party spokesman position last Thursday, when he announced his candidacy for the top spot.

The official process to submit nominations closed at 1pm and requires each candidate to submit 100 signatures of individuals who back their candidacy.

Speaking after submitting his nomination, Demetriou said: “The goal is to unify the pieces of the Disy party.”

He added that the party needs to move forward, to become a modern political organisation away from the mechanisms that contributed little to these elections.

“On the other hand, and at the same time, I want to declare that my candidacy is an independent candidacy, addressed to the thousands of pure, proud Disy members. I address them, I draw strength from them, I ask for their support so that we can move forward together, to strengthen, to grow Disy. Disy belongs to them. It doesn’t belong to anyone else,” he said.

“I am ready, I am strong, I have the appetite, I have the time to fight this battle with dignity, with political ethics, with honesty for the best days of Disy,” he added.

Last week, when he announced his candidacy the MP said he would take up the issue of people who were ejected from the party in the past year, as Disy cannot be a divisive party.

“I believe we need to return to our principled position, that we are not a party of write-offs,” he said.

The last dismissal which went public was that of president-elect Nikos Christodoulides, when he submitted his candidacy for the presidential elections running against Neophytou.

The house president arrived at the Disy offices to put her name forward shortly 12:30pm. Information that she would run first emerged on Monday, adding drama to the contest, for which Neophytou and party number two Harris Georgiades had also said they would run.

“I have always been present in major political challenges. I want to inform all the members and friends of Disy that I will run for the position of president of the party at the Cyprus-wide elections on March 11,” the House president said.

She added that she had consulted with other Disy members in previous days, and that she listened to their opinions on the future of the party.


Averof Neophytou bowing out of the campaign (Photo: Christos Theodorides)

“The joint demand is a need for unity, stability, and certainty,” she said.

The party must find the courage to admit mistakes and weaknesses and with confidence and sincerity to collectively plan the necessary reconstruction, she added.

“With the values of the founder of our party, Glafcos Clerides, and with the main goal of solving the Cyprus problem and the main concern of the problems of society, the modernisation of the state and the strengthening of trust in the institutions of our country, I am putting myself at the disposal of the proud world of Disy,” she said.

She said that she will continue holding various contacts in the coming days to discuss the future of the party.

After the house president threw her name in for the position, Neophytou officially bowed out of the race.

“I want to start by wishing every success to the two candidates running for the leadership of Disy,” he said.

The outgoing party leader said what is necessary for the party are dignity, responsibility and unity.

Questioned by journalists about his next steps, Neophytou said that he will remain politically active for his country and his party.

Asked if he believed outgoing President Nicos Anastasiades undermined him leading up to the first round of the presidential elections on February 5, Neophytou did not respond, merely saying he had his wife’s love, the love of the people, and that they will all look to the future and stay together.

Meanwhile, Anastasiades said: “Firstly, I want to express my respect to the leader of Disy, Averof Neophytou, who, rising to the occasion and for the good of the party, showed his leadership skills, allowing the renewal of the party with two new executives.”

He said although he had not spoken with the two candidates, he had had discussions with party members on how best to reunify Disy and fix the role it has played in Cyprus until today.

Asked if he was one of the 100 signatures that signed in favour of Annita Demetriou, the outgoing president said: “Of course not.”

He added that he does not get involved in internal party matters.

Neophytou became party leader in 2013, when Nicos Anastasiades stepped down to take on his duties as president of the Republic.

In his statement withdrawing his candidacy, Georgiades said that the short timeframe – Neophytou had announced the date of March 11 for the election when conceding defeat in the presidential election of February 5 – had made it “difficult” to continue in the running.

“However, the main reason is that the reasons I had for running have changed,” he said, without alluding further.

He said that change was certain within the party, and this fact satisfied him.

On Monday, Politis reported that the house president would only run if the current party leader withdrew his candidacy.

Meanwhile, Georgiades stated during a TV show on Alpha that he believed Neophytou simply should not be running for the top post.

“We no longer live in the era of great old leaders, not in Cyprus, not in Greece, or internationally,” he said.

Neophytou could have made things easier and not stood for re-election and simply stood by the side of Disy’s new leadership, in a bid to keep the party’s unity cemented, Georgiades added.

President-elect Christodoulides later expressed his certainty that he would cooperate with whichever candidate was elected. Any decision made by the party on who will be the next leader will be “completely respected”, he said, stressing that a strong Disy was vital for his governance.