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Woman Speaker is what politics needs

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The mainstream political parties have not learned from the lessons of recent elections, whereby 34% of the electorate abstained in disgust, the fallout from ongoing scandals, corruption, and abuse of public trust.

A further 14% of voters who turned up chose to punish the political groups by casting their ballot favouring smaller or fringe parties, none of whom made the 3.6% threshold to enter parliament.

Furthermore, the traditional duo of DISY from the right and AKEL on the left have seen their power base diminish from a combined 75-80% in their heyday to about 50%.

Now that 23 new deputies got elected to the 56-seat parliament, the parties are bickering like children fighting over sweets.

During the first plenary meeting next week, they should agree on a new President of the House of Representatives.

All seven groups have considered putting forward their party leaders, with the pro-administration DISY the first to break from tradition and propose Annita Demetriou for Speaker.

The smaller opposition DIKO has so far proposed its party leader for the job, even though deputy leader Christiana Erotokritou would also do a great job.

Communist AKEL, faced with some serious soul searching after it failed to drum up support, despite the government’s reputation falling to its lowest, will be too busy electing a new leader of its own after the Secretary-General said he would step down.

This would be a great opportunity for the progressive party to suggest Irene Charalambides, voted nationally as the most popular MP in last Sunday’s elections, same as in 2016.

Some, including Charalambides, regard the President’s role as ceremonial, tasked with keeping the House in order.

At the same time, the AKEL MP believes she could do more on the bench and in the trenches, where she has had a commendable record in the House Ethics Committee.

And that’s where she is wrong.

What Cyprus needs right now is a ‘fresh’ face to lead parliament and rebuild its tarnished reputation, without any ties to corrupt officials, and a person who would at least seem to place national interest above personal or party gain.

This automatically disqualifies the four male leaders of DISY, AKEL, DIKO and EDEK, as ugly campaigns and rhetoric during the drab election period made cross-party cooperation a non-starter.

Charalambides is a great communicator, thanks to her media background.

She had pointed fingers at wrongdoers in committee hearings, has never shied from the unveiling and telling the truth, had represented Cyprus well in the OSCE, and stood her ground when conservative MPs of debatable intelligence made sexist remarks.

As Speaker, nothing could prevent her from initiating probes and seeking out the ills in society.

Being the country’s second in command should give her leverage to get the message across about equality, beating poverty, closing the gender gap, demanding better healthcare, and defending minority groups, the elderly and the disadvantaged.

As an executive-based political system, whenever the President of the Republic is absent, the House leader steps in as Acting President, making a woman sitting in the top chair at the Palace a sight for sore eyes.

It is a great opportunity for a new (female) Speaker to smash the glass ceiling and compensate for the poor showing of male-dominated politics that has not encouraged women running for public office, with just three Cabinet members and eight MPs.

At least we would have a President of the House that we can feel proud of.