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Centre-right Diko quits Cyprus coalition, as rift remains

27 February, 2014

The centre right Democratic Party (Diko) voted late on Wednesday night to abandon the ruling coalition of which it is a junior partner, but a narrow vote once again showed that the party’s new hard-line leader still does not enjoy a vast majority.
Diko’s council voted by 97 to 81 votes to quit the coalition over President Nicos Anastasiades’ warming up to the Turkish Cypriots in U.N.-sponsored talks and the issuing of a joint declaration that will become the foundation of future talks towards a solution.
Diko president Nicholas Papadopoulos overcame resistance from his predecessor, Marios Karoyian, as well as deputy leader and former EU Commissioner Markos Kyprianou, who wanted to stay in the coalition and try to convince Anastasiades to embrace more of Diko’s political positions.
A similar narrow vote came out of the smaller executive committee meeting over the weekend, when 22 voted in favour of quitting and 15 wanted to stay.
However, the partyu has pledged to support the government’s privatisation bill in parliament later on Thursday, especially after Finance Minister Haris Georgiades included some safeguards that foresees better parliamentary and labour union involvement in the decision-making process.
Papadopoulos also wants the party’s four cabinet ministers to resign from the administration immediately, as well as the party’s recent appointments to semi-government organisations, such as power utility EAC and the state tourism agency CTO.
Diko ministers hold the key cabinet portfolios of Energy, Defence, Health and Education, with all four expressing their resentment in being ordered to resign, hardly a year in office, when they have started to see the first results of their work in helping the economy to recover.
Energy, Trade and Tourism ministers George Lakkotrypis has been playing a key role in coordinating efforts with natural gas exploration companies Noble, Total, ENI and Kogas, as well as Israel’s Delek and Avner, to see when gas supplies can reach upstream and exports to start, while his tourism portfolio has been dealing with expanding the holiday season in order to attract more tourist from Russia, the Ukraine and CIS this year.
Health Minister Petros Petrides has reached the final stages of submitting his plan for a National Health Service, as part of the public sector reforms imposed by the troika of international lenders following a 10 bln euro bailout package agreed last year.
Defence Minister Photis Photiou recently announced the downsizing of the conscript-base National Guard and gradually reducing national service to 14 months, while setting up a semi-professional army that will deal with the new challenges in the region, such as defending the island’s offshore natgas reserves anf future LNG hub, as well as becoming a bastion against third-world immigration.
Finally, Education Minister Kyriacos Kenevezos has been dealing with the reform of the public education sector that includes making public schools more efficient and productive, and generating higher-grade results from school children while restructuring the union-controlled teaching system.
President Nicos Anastasiades said on Monday that he was not dealing with a government reshuffle at the moment, especially after Diko’s initial decision to quit the coalition over disagreement on dealing with the Cyprus problem.
Government spokesman Christos Stylianides said “in regards to relevant press reports and information, the President would like to clarify that prior to the final decision of the Democratic Party’s collective bodies, he will not deal with a reshuffling issue”.
Anastasiades expressed his gratitude towards coalition partner DIKO for its cooperation during the “first difficult year” of his government and pointed out the excellent cooperation he had with the DIKO ministers and the party’s leadership.
A recent power struggle, that saw Papadopoulos taking the helm of the party his father led a decade earlier, has already caused damage to the rank and file with public rivalries and comments creating further tension.