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House Speaker shines torch for equality

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The burden on Annita Demetriou’s shoulders is heavy.

She is the first female and, at 35, the youngest member of the House to be elected as Speaker, and more so from the ruling DISY party.

With just five years into her political career, she has shown to be a soft-spoken, mild-mannered and moderate MP, mildly raising her tone only when under fire.

Demetriou has often maintained her composure, even after her party leadership undermined her candidacy in the 2016 parliamentary elections, only to prove them wrong.

She came out a winner as the most popular candidate in Larnaca.

What the House of Representatives needs is a serious change to its tarnished image, not just because of the endless scandals and corruption that has plagued the institution.

But because the voters, especially younger people, feel disenfranchised by the ‘establishment’, voter abstentions reached a record high on May 30.

This frustration, the absence of female candidates and the lack of any campaign by the government or the mainstream parties to encourage young people to register resulted in a poor showing by the April 2 deadline.

As a result, hard-line groups such as ELAM banked on this mistrust, rounded up their sore supporters and doubled their parliamentary seats.

At least, Demetriou is a fresh face with a calm voice that appeals to young voters, especially women.

After all, she is known simply as ‘Annita’. And this is the way it should be.

Everyone jumped on the ‘break the glass ceiling’ bandwagon by congratulating Demetriou for her election, proposed by DISY, which knew full well its image needed a major facelift, not just cosmetic.

The other alternatives would have been Irene Charalambides of AKEL, the most popular MP by far in the elections, or opposition DIKO’s Christiana Erotokritou.

By saying she had greater responsibilities to hound the bad guys from the bench, Charalambides did not want to be a candidate, while Erotokritou backed her party leader.

Indirectly they did not stand in Annita Demetriou’s way, and rightly so.

Outgoing House President Adamos Adamou, handing over to the new Speaker, had wise words.

He had first-hand knowledge of working with Demetriou and said her greatest attribute was that she has a knack for decisions by consensus.

It will be a tough call for the young politician, representing the Cypriot assembly in international fora and stand in as Acting President whenever the chief executive is out of the country or otherwise incapacitated.

She is no longer confined to the party line as she is tasked as the Speaker of people’s hearts.

And the people have spoken – no more corruption, an end to unethical politicians, stop public appointments and promotions without merit, halt waste of public funds.

However, Demetriou must realise that being second in command, she also has a tremendous weapon that no one can silence – her voice.

There is no doubt that Demetriou will stand up for equality and closing the gender gap, beating poverty and demanding better healthcare, tolerating diversity and defending minority groups, the elderly and the disadvantaged.

Though failing to appoint more women in his administration, the second-term President Anastasiades said Demetriou’s election “sent a strong message to all citizens that women can and should challenge for such posts.”

He admitted that “this message is addressed to me as well.”

House Speaker Demetriou has to make sure the President keeps his word.

Her credibility will depend on proving that she puts the public interest first.