Two opinion polls released last Wednesday indicate substantial disappointment with President Nikos Christodoulides after his first 11 months in office. The poll carried out for Red Wolf PR & Advertising found that only 20 per cent had a positive opinion of the president and 45 per cent a negative one, while 35 per cent had neither. The second poll, for Vergina television channel, showed an approval rating of 31.6 per cent, which is very low for the first year of a presidency.
If there were presidential elections with the same candidates that stood last February, according to the Red Wolf survey, Christodoulides’ share of the vote would have been halved – it found that Andreas Mavroyiannis would have taken 22 per cent, Averof Neophytou 17 per cent and Christodoulides 16 per cent. The performance of the government on a range of issues was also given the thumbs down by respondents – there was a negative opinion for education by 50 per cent, for migration 66 per cent, for the Cyprus problem by 69 per cent and for the economy by 47 per cent.
The philosophy of the president, which is to please as many people as possible, has not worked. For as long as he was campaigning and telling people what they wanted to hear, his popularity kept rising, but this formula has not worked since he entered office. Even so, he has persisted with it, attending public events every day, making statements about whatever happened to be in the news and making promises about the better future he would deliver. Interestingly, the Vergina poll found that 81 per cent of respondents did not believe the 80 policies and actions, announced by the president for 2024 on television, would be implemented.
Christodoulides’ big mistake is that he has not moved out of the election campaign mode. In the last 11 months he carried on touring the country, giving speeches and making promises, while also pandering to protesting interest groups, whose representatives were invariably invited to the presidential palace for discussions. It created the impression that he was not interested in the job of running a government, which requires hard work and taking tough decisions that cannot keep everyone happy. Most importantly, however, was his failure to act on the declarations he made during the campaign, often doing the opposite of what he had promised. Even the media that initially supported him turned against him when faced with the big gulf between his words and actions.
The polls will have rattled the president, although he was defiant on Sunday, declaring that he was proud of the work his government had done so far. “Everything we promised the Cypriot people will be implemented,” he assured. It would help if the president abandoned the campaigning he enjoys so much and focused instead on the less pleasant and more demanding task of governing the country. This could eventually improve his approval rating.