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Tales from the Coffeeshop: Nikos II’s new cabinet – promises kept, promises broken

Τελετή διαβεβαίωσης μελών νέας Κυβ
Nikos Christodoulides' new team

THE COMRADES of Akel have never been renowned for their sense of humour, but their description of the council of ministers announced on Monday night by Nikos II was both funny and astute. The new prez, said Akel, had set the bar so high he had to go under it.

In fact, the only criterion he set in the run-up to the horse-trading with the parties regarding the ministerial appointments that he stuck to was the age of his appointments. He had said he would choose relatively young people and he did, the average age of the cabinet being just under 50, despite one aged 69 and one over 70.

He failed to keep the promise that 50 per cent of the cabinet would be women – there were six women and 11 men, making the percentage 35 per cent. He also promised there would be no-one who had served as minister previously – there were two – and no front-line member of a party – there was one.

He did not, however, promise he would not appoint friends and family, so he should not be criticised for appointing two long-time friends, including a koumbara of the presidential couple, and the husband of the first lady’s sister as director of the president’s office. He also honoured his promise to appoint people from all districts, even though Paphos was a bit under-represented.

 

MOST of the wheeler-dealing that raged ahead of the appointments became public. The way the finance minister was chosen was a perfect illustration of this.

Prez Nikos wanted to appoint a KPMG man, Tasos Yiasemides, but the man was vetoed by Edek chief Dr Sizo, not because he was unfit for the job, but because he was a close friend and associate of the former Edek leader Yiannakis Omirou whom the botox expert hates.

The other backer of Prez, Dipa leader Marios Garoyian, a hanger-on of the presidential palace under all prezzies, proposed as compromise the professional placeman Makis Keravnos. At 71, he may have undermined the attempt to give the cabinet a youthful look, and he had served in two ministries under Ethnarch Tassos, but as a member of Diko, he was the right fit for the post.

We just hope that he will not have to negotiate any outstanding tax debts of the church this time round. The last time he did this as finance minister in 2005, he offered the church a very good discount, and few months later the archbishop appointed him CEO of Hellenic Bank, despite having never worked in banking.

 

ON THE PLUS side, Keravnos will bring some much-needed, Diko-style bash-patriotism to the finance ministry, which in the last 10 years dealt exclusively with unpatriotic economic policy.

Member of the Twiteratti, Gourounakis, tweeted one of Keravnos’ social media posts from last December, in which he could not hide his disgust for the EU. He wrote:

“For years now, from time to time, a stench emanates from the EU. Those who passed through Brussels know this well. Now it has overflowed, the filth and the bad smell has spread everywhere, I hope that those who saw our bad situation and asked when we would become Europeans will not now feel disappointed…. We Cypriots live with the stench of the EU for years now. They never saw or heard about the Turkish invasion on European soil, and this is why they never decided any measure against Turkey. But they became upset, quite rightly, about the invasion of Russia. Even there though, they exhaust the effort at the continuation of the war while the Ukrainian people are living a frightening tragedy.”

For Keravnos it is the stinking Europeans who are to blame for the tragedy the Ukrainian people are living. I hear when he attends meetings of the EU finance ministers Kervanos will be wearing an oxygen mask to protect himself from the stench emanating from the EU.

 

RETUURNING to the wheeler-dealing, Anastasia Papadopoulou was proposed by her brother Junior, but here appointment was vetoed by Garoyian, presumably because she was not as patriotic as Keravnos.

Nobody could dispute the patriotism of the new defence minister, Michalis Giorgallas, who was appointed defence minister. Giorgallas had served as a deputy of the Eleni Theocharous vehicle, Solidarity, of which he was deputy leader. He resigned from the post when he failed to get re-elected to parliament and has since had little to do with it.

The bizarre thing was that he was proposed for the ministry by Dr Sizo – Edek always demands the defence ministry because it always wants to have the leading role in the war for liberation and the purchase of military equipment. Dr Sizo came under intense criticism from party members for appointing someone not belonging to Edek.

Meanwhile Dr Eleni was so upset by Giorgallas’ appointment that she resigned as leader of Solidarity because she was completely left out of the wheeler-dealing, all her proposals ignored. The big question now is who will lead Dr Eleni’s personal vehicle?

 

IT ONLY took Giorgallas two days in the job to pose as a defence and military expert. On Saturday morning he was interviewed on Trito and informed us that he was very impressed with the high standards of the National Guard, its organisation and the general staff plans. The guy is a chemical engineer, but all he needed was two days as defence minister to speak with the authority of a military expert about our defence.

 

THE NEW foreign minister Constantinos Kombos was also a bit of a surprise. An associate professor in public law at the University of Cyprus, rumours suggest he was chosen because he was the tutor of the first lady, Mrs Karsera, when she did a law degree at the University of Cyprus a few years ago; she received her degree in 2020.

The biggest surprise of all the appointments, however, was Michalis Hadjiyiannis, the former mega-star whose career has been in sharp decline for years now, as deputy minister of culture. Although phenomenally successful as an entertainer in Greece, the guy has not been known for his great contribution to culture, but his appointment will appeal to all those who appreciate good looks, such as most of the Prez’s voters.

Another two individuals had been offered the culture deputy ministry, both of whom would have been a better fit than Hadjiyiannis, but they were discarded at the last minute.

Why was he chosen ahead of more suitable candidates? Apparently, Hadjiyiannis, who lost millions in the 2013 haircut, being a bank bondholder and Laiki depositor, was a member of the two groups representing the interests of the bondholders and Laiki depositors and played a key role in securing the public support of the two groups for Christodoulides’ candidacy.

A deputy ministry was the least he deserved.

 

THE INAUGURATION speech of Nikos II at the House of Representatives on Tuesday was another exposition of the generalities the new president specialises in.

“At the epicentre of our priorities is the Person (Anthropos in Greek) and his/her good living, and this is what I will ask of the ministers and other state officials that will assume their duties tomorrow. The Person at the epicentre of all our policies. The Person and the broader public interest, the basic element of a strong and proud Cyprus.”

Not only will we be at the epicentre of all policies, he also plans make us all happy. He did not say how he will achieve this, but he recognises its importance. “I am aware that when the citizens of state do not prosper and are not happy, they can neither fight for nor dream of a better tomorrow.”

Is he guilty of setting the bar too high again, or will he ensure our happiness by diluting happy pills in the water supply?

 

THE TOP priority, however, he said, was the solution of the Cyprus problem. It did not occur to him that this would make thousands of people unhappy. Nevertheless he warned peaceniks of not getting their hopes too high.

“I have no illusions. I know that my predecessors gave the same assurance,” he said and named all of them, before adding: “All left the presidency without achieving their sincere dream of liberation and reunification of our country, even though they wanted it with all their being.”

Spyros, Tassos, Tof and Nik wanted a solution with all their being? If he is going to want a solution with all his being like Tassos and Spyros, we can start preparing for reunification from now.

 

THE PIO posted biographical resumes of all the ministers and other members of the new government. It struck me that most of them are from Nicosia and quite a few of them were born after the invasion.

This did not stop the husband of the sister of the first lady, Charalambos Charalambous, the director of the president’s office, who was born in 1983 in Athens, declaring himself as a multiple refugee. His resume says “he is a refugee from the occupied villages Masari, Morphou and Vatyli Ammochostou.”

The guy was kicked out from two villages by the Turks, nine years before he was born.

 

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