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Our View: The phenomenon of ‘apolitical politicians’

Υπουργός Οικονομικών – Δηλώσεις //
Former finance minister Constantinos Petrides

Former finance minister Constantinos Petrides made a name for himself as a politician, who did not mince his words, always expressing his views in a clear and forthright way, regardless of whom he might anger. He was one of the very few politicians who did not follow the trend of telling people what they wanted to hear in order to boost his popularity, nor did he shy away from expressing a view about a policy issue that might have incurred a personal political cost.

Such politicians seem to have become an endangered species in Cyprus, especially after the phenomenal success of Nikos Christodoulides who was elected president by avoiding political confrontation at all costs and never expressing a clear political position on anything. He relied on platitudes that nobody could disagree with and maintaining that he was in constant in dialogue with citizens to hear what they wanted. It is a funny kind of leadership, but he won the elections with this political formula.

In preview of an interview that will be published on Sunday in Omicron magazine, Petrides spoke about the “apolitical politicians, who have their public image as their priority.” This was seen as a dig at the new Disy chief, House President Annita Demetriou, who has appeared to have adopted the president’s political style, after her election, and a deputy issued an announcement on behalf of party officials, urging members to avoid moves and statements that questioned the new leadership.

Surely a party member has the right to criticise the new leadership if they believe the party is moving in the wrong direction, having nothing to offer other than “dialogue with citizens” and “healing the wounds” caused by the election. Disy, the island’s biggest party, is in danger of becoming another apolitical grouping, all things to all people, in order to safeguard its unity, while ignoring the need for a party that offers an alternative to a government committed exclusively to populism.

As Petrides, pointed out in the interview, there is a large group of people “who believe in something very important in politics – rationalism – whether this relates to the economy, the Cyprus issue or anything else that runs counter to populism and demagoguery.” There is no party representing this group, who may belong to the Right, the Centre or be social democrats and Disy should be targeting them instead of adopting the platitudinous politics of populism that the president has made the norm.

And it is a good thing Petrides has pointed this out. The Disy leadership needs to be questioned and challenged if it appears to be making the wrong choices. It is the duty of its members to do this.

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