The centre-right Democratic Party (Diko) may have elected a new leadership on Sunday, but the battle for control of the island’s third biggest party seems not to have abated.
The party’s recently elected president, Nicolas Papadopoulos, who has hinted at leaving the ruling coalition as a junior partner because of his objection to the joint declaration by the island’s two community leaders for the resumption of peace talks, will be facing a measure of internal opposition he had hoped to overcome with Sunday’s elections.
Former cabinet minister and one-time EU Commissioner Markos Kyprianou was elected party deputy leader, raising hopes of some day challenging the DIKO leadership outright, while Papadopoulos’ favoured candidate, economist Costas Mavrides fell short of 540 votes. MEP Antigone Papadoulou (S&D) also contested the post, but scored a distant third. However, she has already announced she will contest one of the six seats in the European parliament elections in May.
Kyprianou’s victory may also set the tone for the party’s position on whether to support Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades in the UN-sponsored bicommunal talks that resume on Tuesday after nearly two years.
Nicolas Papadopoulos, who almost split the party last year when he supported Yiorgos Lillikas, a staunch opponent of the current peace process, has already been rebuffed by three Diko cabinet members, Kyriakos Kenevezos (education), Yiorgos Lakkotrypis (energy) and Photos Photiou (defence), who said it was too early to consider abandoning the coalition.
Furthermore, with former health minister Christos Patsalides elected first vice president, it would seem that ousted party president Marios Garoyian, may still have some influence within. Papadopoulos’ favoured candidate, Paphos mayor Savas Vergas, a distant second.
This division will also determine whether DIKO takes a strong stance and opposes the current peace process or adopts a more mellow wait-and-see approach depending on how the talks will proceed and what, if any, Anastasiades relinquishes to the Turkish side in order to achieve the island’s reunification.
DIKO has traditionally opposed the bizonal, bicommunal, federal solution, despite its adoption by the party’s founder, Spyros Kyprianou, father of current deputy leader Markos, for fear of surrendering too much to the Turkish side, while it has argued in favour of a unitary state under Greek Cypriot rule.
Incumbent president Nicolas Papadopoulos’ father, Tassos, staunchly opposed a UN plan ten years ago that called for shared rule in a confederation, that, he said, would see the extinction of the present Republic of Cyprus.
Ironically, Nicos Anastasiades seems to have more support in the peace talks from his arch rival communist party Akel than his own junior coalition partners.
The remaining top party positions in the Diko elections on Sunday were taken up by Marinos Moushiouttas (party secretary) and Phitos Constantinou (central coordinator).
In all, 18,262 party members went to the polls that will also elect the remaining key posts within the party central committee, the regional officers and the national committee, comprising more than 100 people, but including elected officials (MPs, cabinet minister, mayors, etc.)
The full results will be announced late on Monday.
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