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Christodoulides’ popularity plummets

Christodoulides, reporters, media, Epiphany, president
File photo: President Nikos Christodoulides
63 per cent of poll respondents felt the country is headed in the wrong direction

Almost exactly a year after coming to power, the ‘honeymoon period’ for President Nikos Christodoulides appears well and truly over. His ratings have plummeted, as shown by opinion polls and his administration will have to work very hard to dig itself out of the hole.

Last week’s poll by Sigma gave Christodoulides a whopping 49 per cent in negative ratings, with positive ratings standing at a paltry 19 per cent. Meantime 32 per cent expressed no opinion either way.

Of those who voted for him in 2023, 28 per cent now have a negative view of his administration, 35 per cent a positive view, and 37 had no opinion either way.

Next, 63 per cent of respondents felt the country is headed in the wrong direction, 25 per cent had no opinion, and just 12 per cent thought matters are moving in the right way.

Asked what is the first thing that comes to them when they think of the first 12 months of the present government, 21 per cent said “disappointment”, 15 per cent said “stagnation”, and 8 per cent said “failure”. Only 6 per cent felt the president “is trying”.

By comparison, at this point in his own term, ex-president Nicos Anastasiades had enjoyed 40 per cent positive ratings, and 19 per cent negative.

ΠτΔ – Δοξολογία για επέτειο 28ης Οκ
Former President Nicos Anastasiades had a fraction of Christodoulides’ negative ratings

A source close to the government, asked to comment on this state of affairs, told us only that the poll results would have been “better” had the survey been carried out after the announcement of the extended subsidies on fuel and electricity.

Not exactly an answer imparting self-confidence.

You might say that a single poll doesn’t capture the sentiment, and that’s a fair point. Except another survey, published by Red Wolf in early February, found that six out of ten who voted for Christodoulides would vote for a different candidate were elections held tomorrow.

It’s also notable that – barring the anti-immigrant riots in Limassol and the government’s weak response – no crisis has yet rocked the administration. And yet its numbers are at rock bottom.

So why? There are both real and ‘technical’ reasons for the president’s dreadful ratings. But regardless, it boils down to this: the public isn’t buying what Christodoulides has to sell. Grace period official over.

“When the president himself admits things aren’t going well, by engaging in a major cabinet reshuffle so soon, what else needs to be said?” remarks Stavros Tombazos, professor of political science at the University of Cyprus.

“I think people feel that things are at a standstill. The economy, the high cost of living, high rents, people can’t find a place to rent. Naturally the expensiveness is due to external factors, and is not exclusive to Cyprus, people do understand that. But at the same time, they don’t see any concrete measures to tackle these issues.”

Tombazos says the president’s and the administration’s numbers are very low – a view shared by political analyst Christoforos Christoforou.

“Usually”, notes the professor, “you don’t see these kinds of numbers for a president in Cyprus. Presidents enjoy relatively high ratings, even at times when their party doesn’t fare that well.”

Christoforou weighs in, recalling for instance that the late former president Demetris Christofias was still pulling 65 per cent positive ratings after a year in office.

It all came crashing down in July 2011, with the deadly explosion at the Mari naval base. Christofias made it even worse for himself by not taking any responsibility.

“After the Mari disaster, Christofias’ popularity sunk to levels as low as Christodoulides’ right now. But that was a one-off event, not something you’d expect in the normal course of events.”

comment chirstos former president christofias famously told the european council 'i am a communist and i am not ashamed to proclaim the fact'
Christodoulides’ ratings mirror those of former President Demetris Christofias after the Mari disaster

For Tombazos, there’s a clear lack of ‘delivery’ when it comes to this administration. This relates to domestic policy, but also the Cyprus issue and other foreign policy.

“Take the much-trumpeted humanitarian aid corridor to Gaza, which fizzled out. And related to that, the government’s apparent pro-Israel stance, during the crisis and suffering in Gaza, likely isn’t being appreciated by a significant segment of the Cypriot electorate.”

Adds Tombazos: “Our neighbourhood is in chaos [meaning Gaza], but people can’t work out what the president thinks about it, what his beliefs are on the subject. He seems detached from reality, as if he’s living on Mars.”

Another aspect has to do with the lay of the land, politically speaking. Christodoulides does not have his ‘own’ party base that will back him through thick and thin.

This, says Tombazos, is problematic.

“Usually in opinion polls, many Cypriots will state they’re satisfied with the president, even when they’re not, if the president hails from the party they vote for. That tends to skew the result somewhat. But this partisan loyalty is absent here.”

In this sense, he adds, polls conducted during the Christodoulides administration may be more “genuine”.

Back to Christoforou, who opines that the surveys coming out are hardly unexpected.

“He [Christodoulides] made a lot of promises coming in, set the bar quite high. He would change things, etcetera. Now, a year on, disillusionment has begun to set in.”

The analyst mentions for example the government’s narrative about getting the EU to appoint an envoy for the Cyprus problem. It didn’t materialise either.

“They talked up the EU envoy for six months. And now, even after nothing happened, the narrative is still there, they’re doubling down on it. This is what the public sees – a great deal of talk but no results.”

Asked to rank the reasons for the administration’s low ratings, Christoforou sums it up:

“First, the gap between words and actions. Second, the government is cut off from reality. And third, the general economic malaise which does take a toll on whoever is in power.”

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