The result of the elections at Disy was seen by one political analyst as a victory of the ‘populist right.’ The new deputy leader Efthymios Diplaros prevailed comfortably over his rival Michalis Sophocelous, candidate of ‘bourgeois Nicosia,’ and the margin of his win would have been bigger had there not been a second candidate of the ‘populist right’ also standing. Meanwhile, the three vice-presidents elected do not necessarily belong to this political faction, but neither are they considered a continuation of the previous leadership.
Is there a ‘populist right’ in Disy or is it a journalistic invention? The tendency has always existed within the party, made up of nationalists with hardline views on the Cyprus problem as well as supporters of a big-spending interventionist state. The growth of this tendency among the base of the party may explain the rise of the nationalists that also shun the traditional economic liberalism of Disy. One reason that so many Disy voters abandoned their party to vote for Nikos Christodoulides in the presidential elections may have been because his positions were much closer to the populist right than the party candidate’s.
Averof Neophytou’s liberal economics and his indisputable commitment to a Cyprus settlement did not sit well with the nationalists of Disy, who found an ally in Nicos Anastasiades – transformed to a hardliner in his second term. With Neophytou gone it is now up to the new Disy leader, Annita Demetriou, to preserve Disy’s traditional political values – safeguarding the free market and pushing for a settlement. So far, she has been paying lip service to unity, collective decision-making, and accountability, but Disy also needs a leadership that will steer it back on the path that made it the biggest party.
Does the country need another party like Diko, Dipa and Edek, which, together with the president embrace the same populist economic policies of Akel? In the darkest day of the Republic, there was only Disy to stand up to the unholy alliance of these parties, which appears to have resurfaced under Christodoulides. There might be some criticism on the handling of the Cyprus issue by Akel, but Disy would also be needed if any pressure is to be applied on the government alliance of hardliners. Our democracy needs a Disy of ‘bourgeois’ Nicosia, Limassol and Larnaca, shunning the values of the ‘populist right,’ which will take our politics backwards.
It is up to Demetriou to ensure Disy is not taken over by the ‘populist right,’ but she might not have much support from the party’ leadership team.