My kingdom for a minister

6 mins read

There we were thinking the government would turn the page on its transparency record by reshuffling the Cabinet to herald a bright new dawn in Cyprus politics.

The parliamentary elections sent a flare gun into the atmosphere to spotlight public fatigue with the political system.

Cypriots are suffering establishment fatigue; there is no longer any trust in the bank regarding our politicians.

Although this week’s Cabinet reshuffle announcement had all the razzamatazz of an after-work drinks party at an accounting firm, it did shed light on the woefully thin reservoir of potential ministers.

Becoming a Cypriot minister is usually considered a plum job.

There’s a thick pension if you serve a little over a year, accountability is not in your portfolio, nobody is ever forced to resign unless pushed (Emily Yiolitis is a rare case study); ability to do the job is a bonus.

On top of all that, the media will not delve into your misdeeds.

All you need is the right connections, a half-decent tailor, speak without moving your lips, and the position is a gravy train to power and influence.

Grudges are not usually held against ministers. But, once out of the public eye, they are instantly forgettable, and you get the best seats in the house on a night out.

Another added perk of a Cabinet posting is that expectations are kept locked up in a Russian nuclear submarine, thus unlikely to surface.

Bungle your way through the job with bluff and bluster, and nobody will be the wiser.

It only tends to get serious if you are caught robbing the taxpayer (otherwise, it’s ok), blow up or bankrupt the country; everything else is open season.

So, it’s hard to believe that anybody would turn down such a well-paid sinecure.

President Anastasiades was doing the rounds searching for suitable candidates to replace some of the deadwood in the Cabinet.

He had hatched a grand scheme to get his unpopular administration out of jail, pick a few new acceptable faces to create a government of broader appeal.

The clarion call sounded like a wounded general calling for reinforcements from the enemy camp to rule the hill with fewer battles to fight.

Responding to the bugle call for unity, the opposition leaders rode into the castle to hear what King Nicos had to offer them.

It wasn’t their Magna Carta moment. Instead, they decided to leave the President hanging in the wind with only a few knights to defend the realm.

Certainly, the opposition was not interested in togetherness or being tarred by the same corruption brush that has dogged this administration.

The opposition was thinking about the next Presidential elections in 2023; they needed to stockpile their ammunition for the next ballot assault.

Tainted legacy

Anastasiades will not contest another election, but the other parties are wary of being tainted by his legacy.

Not that they have a brilliant track record to boast about or a candidate that inspires confidence in renaissance politics.

What transpired this week is the President having to scrape the bottom of the barrel to find two willing fall guys to take the Justice and Health portfolios.

Two key government ministries. One tasked with navigating the pandemic, the other responsible for pushing through long-delayed reforms that have harmed Cyprus’ competitiveness.

The two names seemingly found hidden down the back of the sofa were a chartered accountant and an insurance broker.

They were wheeled in to pick up the baton after the outgoing health minister decided the business world had fewer cutthroat pirates and scorned Yiolitis gave birth to the mother of all resignation letters.

Anastasiades, a shrewd politician, understood the need to refresh his government to deflect some bad press, but there were no takers for his poison chalice.

He wanted former House speaker Adamos Adamou to be his new health minister, but AKEL would have none of it.

AKEL was not interested in their man doing public service if it meant the old enemy would get all the credit.

It is another perfect example of how politics is good at dividing a nation rather than serving it.

And we are supposed to believe politicians when they say they care about the country.

The tribe will always come first; think drug cartels to fathom how politics works (replace the bullets for untruths).

In the end, the big government make-over with a friendlier face was abandoned in favour of a few plasters to paper over the widening cracks.

This government tugboat will chug on in its muddling, male-dominated guise until it runs out of steam.