The former ruling Democratic Rally, licking its wounds having lost the presidential elections, has won a last-minute reprieve with the majority of party members electing House Speaker Annita Demetriou as their new president.
With an overwhelming 69.18% of the members seeking change, Demetriou already called for unity within party ranks and a rejuvenation of the senior leadership.
She must tread a fine line between those who supported eventual victor Nikos Christodoulides (a protégé of the outgoing president) and the party’s candidate, Averof Neophytou.
Words were spoken, tempers rose, and criticism flowed.
Fortunately, none of these affects Demetriou, the party’s first woman, fifth president, and fifth female to ever head a political group in Cyprus.
She is liked by many, young and old, for her warmth and outgoing personality. She has been fair while keeping firm control in parliament.
However, Annita faces several challenges ahead, mainly for the party.
It’s been ten years since the Eurogroup imposed harsh bailout measures on Cyprus, with the multi-billion rescue package coming at a cost.
Due to the superficial way, the House of Representatives dealt with the crisis, Laiki Bank collapsed, a depositors’ bail-in rescued the Bank of Cyprus, the Co-op bank was absorbed by its black hole, several state entities were shuttered, and privatisations were forced.
As a result, the middle class was wiped out, small to medium-sized businesses were lost in a vacuum, and DISY was in denial throughout the past ten years.
Demetriou needs to change that and revive a sense of compassion within the party leadership if she wants DISY to retake its leading role.
This should happen very soon, with party members electing a new executive body over the next two months, all of whom should work amicably with Demetriou.
Next on her agenda are the twin elections for European Parliament, and soon-to-be merged local municipal councils that will see fewer mayors.
This will be in May 2024, and she will have to juggle between increasing demands for favours and the good of the party and the country.
Beyond that, DISY must also decide if it will be the main Opposition party, especially as, despite individual support from some members, the party is not in the coalition with a minority in parliament.
Apart from her role as Acting President, whenever Christodoulides is out of the country, she will need to balance her party’s role in its relations with the incumbent administration.
Next are the parliamentary elections of 2026, where DISY’s true strength will appear, and immediately after that will the end of the current government and whether the Democratic Rally will have a role to play in electing the next president.
She has her plate full, but Annita Demetriou will prove her might if she can sail through an internal storm.