President Christodoulides addresses the new members of the government. (Photo: Stavros Ioannides / PIO)

President scorned as new ministers sworn in

2075 views
2 mins read

Cyprus President Nikos Christodoulides swore in new members of his cabinet on Wednesday, amid criticism from outgoing ministers, as well as one of his key coalition partners.

Welcoming the nine new ministers, junior ministers and commissioners to the Presidential Palace ceremony, Christodoulides urged them to ignore “baseless criticism and work tirelessly to serve the public interest.”

He announced the reshuffle on Monday, just ten months into his administration, prompted by the resignation last week of the deputy minister for innovation and technology.

Addressing the new cabinet members, Christodoulides said they are accountable to the Cypriot people and emphasised the importance of serving the public rather than private interests.

The swearing-in ceremony saw former Palace advisor Vasilis Palmas as the new defense minister, environment commissioner Maria Panayiotou promoted to agriculture minister, Marios Hartsiotis as justice minister, and Michalis Damianos taking over the health portfolio.

Additionally, Nikodemos Damianou was appointed deputy minister of innovation, research, and digital policy.

New commissioners include Panayiotis Palates for Citizens Affairs, Charalambos Christophinas for Mountainous Regions, and Antonia Theodosiou for the Environment.

One of the president’s closest advisors, Marilena Raouna, was named Deputy Minister of European Affairs, a newly established post, with her swearing-in pending cabinet ratification.

Christodoulides urged the new appointees to collaborate with organised bodies, social partners, independent officials, and political parties. He advised them to ignore baseless criticism, focus on their work for the public interest, and seek out constructive criticism.

He was referring to reports of dissatisfaction among outgoing ministers who heard about their replacements through press reports.

In a detailed and comprehensive response to the President regarding the reshuffling, former Health Minister Popi Kanari outlined step by step everything that was achieved during her 10-month tenure at the ministry.

On target

“We managed from the 77 actions set by President Christodoulides to implement 26 actions in their entirety. Another 16 actions were implemented at 75% and 22 actions at 50%,” Kanari said.

“Therefore, we have implemented a large number of actions in a very short time and touched on issues that were left untouched in the ministry’s drawers.”

It is believed she was replaced after an all-out conflict with the ministry’s Director General, when Kanari challenged the senior civil servant’s academic qualifications.

Outgoing Defense Minister Michalis Giorgallas and Justice Minister Anna Procopiou were also dissatisfied and highlighted their achievements during their short terms in office.

Giorgallas thanked the president, but pointed out that despite the short duration of his tenure and the abrupt replacement, he felt that his mission was successfully accomplished, while Procopiou stressed that 70% of the president’s pre-election commitments involving her ministry were fulfilled.

Meanwhile, coalition partner centrist party DIPA expressed dissatisfaction with the reshuffle, as they are now without a serving member in the cabinet, and concerned that partner DIKO’s influence on the government is growing.

Lack of dialogue

Talking to Alpha TV, DIPA spokesman and MP Alekos Tryfonides criticised the lack of dialogue, despite submitting proposals.

The MP argued that, “the handling of matters could have been different within the framework of cooperation, while assuring that DIPA will contribute creatively to produce work for the good of the country”.

Government spokesperson Konstantinos Letymbiotis responded to concerns about DIKO’s increased presence, stating that the selection of new government members was based on their ability to implement President Christodoulides’ pre-election programme, and not their party identity.

He emphasised that party origin was not a prerequisite for selection, and individuals were chosen based on their ability to serve specific portfolios.

President Christodoulides, during his election campaign, had promised to break away from the “old parties’ influence in governance in favour of society”.

However, by sacking Kanari and Procopiou, and taking on just one new female minister, he has reduced the number of women in his cabinet to just two, far from his pre-election pledge to keep an equal balance in his administration.

To date, Christodoulides has justified this move by saying he appointed more female junior ministers and commissioners. However, they are not full voting portfolios of the eleven-member cabinet.