After a poor showing in the last parliamentary elections, and a massive rift recently, Giorgos Perdikis was re-elected as Green Party leader on Sunday with 204 votes to 92 for his rival Efi Xanthou.
According to what they said in their respective speeches, Perdikis was just stepping in temporarily to restore unity and trust, while Xanthou by contrast set out her vision and touched on what she saw as the problems that have been plaguing the party over the past few years.
Most recently a senior member Alexandra Attalidou resigned with a damning indictment, citing a “catastrophic” position on the Cyprus problem, a lack of unity with European Greens, unethical attacks by members over her support of rights for same sex couples, and retaliation over her choice to support Akel-backed Andreas Mavroyiannis in the presidential elections. Her resignation was followed shortly thereafter by the stepping down as party leader of Charalambos Theopemptou.
Given the turmoil, an outsider could easily view the results of Sunday’s election as a step backwards for the Green Party, a return to a hardline stance on the Cyprus issue, often promoted above environmental concerns, even if that may have simply been the public’s perception and not the reality.
Xanthou on Sunday pledged to support Perdikis in stabilising the party. In her speech earlier, she said when she decided to run for leader, she had not expected to be running against Perdikis.
She acknowledged that during the presidential elections, the party had not handled it well. “We pointed fingers at competitors, rifts were created that could have been avoided,” she said.
Xanthou went beyond calling for party unity expanding the message to the entire political space. “Our problem is people who choose to continue to see the other as evil. The right-wing should not want the left-wing and vice versa… to loathe a political party so much that they will ally with any that stands against it. This is no way to do politics,” she added.
She also pointed out that the party cannot remain exactly as it was. Just like the environment, “living organisms have two choices, either to mutate and adapt, or disappear”.
Despite Xanthou’s clear vision of the way forward, for whatever reason, the vast majority of members, to whose views we are not privy, seem to have taken the path of least resistance by reinstating Perdikis. Or they simply do not want to engage in any soul-searching.
There is no doubt that Cyprus needs a Green Party, especially amid the ambitious EU green transition and the crucial environmental issues going on around us. There is also potential to attract voters who feel they don’t fit into the current iterations of left or right that have become massively polarised.
What we don’t need is another hardline political party, so when Perdkis describes himself as a unifying placeholder until the next party election and says he is not seeking to return “to the centre of politics”, we will have to take him at his word for now.