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An election of zero expectations

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As the government stumbles along, to avoid making any hard, unpopular decisions, it’s trying to garner maximum credit for any modicum of success achieved in the past decade.

It goes without saying that when writing the self-penned biography of its time in power, the Anastasiades administration will deliberately omit the scandals it swept under the doormat.

Certainly, many will argue that Cyprus is in a better position than when Nicos Anastasiades first came to power in 2013 as the country’s banking system imploded.

Bank depositors got a haircut, wages were slashed, taxes were up, and Cypriots were taught a harsh lesson in austerity.

The disgraced passport scheme was one of the mechanisms the government used to generate much-needed revenue for a cash-strapped state.

In a rush for foreign cash, there was little concern about due diligence, as the glitter of gold tends to melt transparency away.

There were warning signs and murmurings along the way about the risk of money laundering and opening the door to criminals with an EU passport.

Reports painting Cyprus as a haven for dirty Russian money were swotted away with criticism of “jealous jurisdictions” wanting to steal our business.

Anastasiades blamed EU competitors for besmirching the good name of Cyprus as a respected business centre.

But the only business the country became infamous for was funny business – where suspicious types turn up with bags of cash to get washed in the overpriced Cypriot real estate market.

Nobody wanted to upset the honey pot when politicians, lawyers, accountants, and estate agents were getting fat on the feeding frenzy triggered by selling golden passports for a couple of million.

It took a foreign TV crew to start digging where nobody wanted to look and follow the chain of deception with the promise of putting money in pockets.

Embarrassment

Once the unofficial secret was out, heads had to roll, and the scheme was shut down in November 2020 due to the embarrassment caused.

Cypriots took to the street to demonstrate their anger at the level of corruption in public office, but the government didn’t fall.

Only those caught on Al Jazeera’s camera were dragged to court, and the trial will most probably last longer than the new government’s five-year term.

I’m unsure we can call it a ‘new government’, as the three main candidates are closely linked to the current administration.

They don’t exactly represent a new vision for Cyprus or the symbol of change.

Accusations of corruption taint everyone that was in the administration.

Frontrunner Nikos Christoulides was foreign minister until January 2022, Averof Neophytou is the leader of the ruling party DISY, loyal to one of its own (Anastasiades), and Andreas Mavroyiannis was chief Cyprus problem negotiator.

In a manner of speaking, they are all conservative thinkers who achieved nothing in ending the island’s division and are empty in the big ideas department.

Why Opposition AKEL chose a government technocrat from the ‘other side’ is unfathomable and undermines their mantle as champions of the left.

Picking a candidate that lacks credentials on diversity, gender equality, and supporting working people can only be interpreted as AKEL positioning itself to lose strategically.

AKEL has no moral high ground after ignoring calls to select one of its female MPs to run for president.

Backing a male candidate that was part of a government it wants to replace is about as radical as it gets on the left.

What credibility do they have on the Cyprus problem by choosing someone on the peace train that crashed in Crans Montana, six years ago? The other two are no better.

And if our society is so equal, why are there only two women among the record 14 candidates running for president?

If the Opposition can’t be bothered to take the election seriously, there should be no surprise that many eligible to vote, refuse to do so.

This election campaign is devoid of colour and sparks as the three rivals essentially sell you the same car you’ve been driving for the past 10 years.

They hope the sales pitch blinds you so they can deliver on their insincere promises and hope you won’t notice when the wheels come off.

Many unknowns can only be answered once the new president takes charge.

So the best we can wish is that the new guy doesn’t crash the economy, start a war or dismantle the health system.

Expect less than nothing, and you won’t be surprised or disappointed.