Diko leader Nicolas Papadopoulos on Sunday sought to sell support for former foreign minister and independent candidate Nikos Christodoulides to the party’s central committee, saying their goals for the future were aligned.
In an address to the committee in Nicosia before the vote on whether members would back Christodoulides, Papadopoulos said despite giving it priority, it was not possible to agree with main opposition Akel on backing Andreas Mavroyiannis.
“Our goal is always to achieve the widest possible collaborations,” he said.
“This intra-party and inter-party dialogue has been constructive and useful and is now complete,” he added and said that the party had now obtained a clear picture of the expectations of members and supporters, but also of society.
“The time for decisions has now come. Our goal remains: to bring change in 2023”.
For this reason, after all this consultation, exchange of views and intense reflection, the executive office of the party decided to propose to the central committee the support Christodoulides.
“Citizens are frustrated, bitter, and even angry about the negative developments in recent years, for wrong decisions and wrong policies, for the financial pressures they feel, for the polarisation and division caused by the attitude of the big traditional parties and for the indifference they feel the state shows for their problems,” Papadopoulos said.
“Society demands a different, independent, candidacy that unites and does not divide, that serves its own priorities and not party agendas.”
Christodoulides, he added was someone who brings hope as he does not speak divisively and is honest, and accepts Diko’s manifesto as being close to his own agenda for change.
These would include, according to Papadopoulos, a need to review tactics and strategy in the Cyprus issue in view of the Turkish intransigence but not to review the basis for a solution, a significant increase in defence spending to reach 2 per cent of GDP and the upgrading of the national guard, the creation of a state department for immigration and the adoption of stricter measures against corruption.
For society as a whole, proposals would include measures to address the cost of living, the introduction of a minimum wage, higher pensions and the abolition of doubly taxing electricity bills. Issues for refugees and farmers would also be high on the agenda, he said
“Of course, our party maintains its own autonomy and independence. The right to differentiate on specific issues both pre-election and post-election,” he said.
“We recognise and want to preserve the real independence of Nikos Christodoulides. But we believe that through these proposals, there is an expanded common political framework that can lead to a productive cooperation with him.”
Papadopoulos also acknowledged that Diko had had disagreements with Christodoulides in the past on important issues when he was part of the current government.
“We are ready to put aside disagreements of the past and focus on the future, to focus on what unites us and not on what separates us,” he said.
The backing of Christodulides by Diko was never going to be plain sailing with reports suggesting that at least one quarter of the members of the central committee were not in favour of the party supporting his candidacy. Even the executive office, that on Wednesday recommended the party support the former foreign minister in the Anastasiades administration, was not unanimous, the reports said.
According to Politis, some members of Diko feel sidelined that decisions were being taken by a handful of people in the top echelons that everyone is expected to go along with.
Some have questioned the intentions of the leadership regarding the dialogue they had with opposition Akel, which has decided to support former Greek Cypriot negotiator Mavroyiannis without the presence of the three vice presidents of the party present.
Famagusta MP Zacharias Koulias, the reports said, had initially been in favour of backing Christodoulides but changed his mind, “mainly due to the disparaging attitude of the former foreign minister who does not want to have Diko executives by his side”, said one report. Christodoulides was also not offering clear positions on the Cyprus problem.
Reports said Christodoulides told Diko he did not want to include party officials in the campaign called on them to work independently to secure vote because he did not want to damage his image as an independent candidate and lost non-Diko votes. Christodoulides still remains a member of ruling Disy.
Others interpret Diko’s decision to back him as an attempt by the leadership to cover the organisational weaknesses that the party is facing, especially after it lost so much ground in last year’s parliamentary elections with a drop in support of over three per cent and 10,000 votes. Previous polls have suggested that 70 per cent of ordinary Diko voters like Christodoulides.