PRESIDENT Demetris Christofias has warned Archbishop Chrysostomos to stop meddling in politics, as the deal-making for the election of a new House Speaker spun into overdrive yesterday.
“The Church has nothing to do with politics and has no right to interfere in political affairs,” Christofias said in comments from Australia.
“It [the Church] is entitled to its views on the Cyprus problem, but its involvement today exposes us internationally,” he added.
“Even the priests have their faults. The garb does not make the wearer the priest,” Christofias noted.
The President’s warning related to remarks made by Chrysostomos over the weekend when he said acceptance of a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation by the Greek Cypriots effectively amounted to a capitulation to Turkish demands over negotiations to end the island’s division.
But it was equally understood as a reaction to news from home that Chrysostomos was meddling in the horsetrading over the appointment of a new House Speaker this Thursday.
In Nicosia, AKEL leader Andros Kyprianou likewise accused the Prelate of “scheming” with former and current politicians in a bid to influence affairs of state.
“We are not intervening in the country’s politics, we are merely concerned about the national problem,” was Chrysostomos’ response yesterday.
In recent days, the Archbishop has met two of the frontrunners for the position of House Speaker – DIKO leader Marios Garoyian and Yiannakis Omirou, head of socialist EDEK. He has also spoken on the phone with rogue DIKO MP Zacharias Koulias.
The purpose of these “routine” contacts was to “exchange views on the Cyprus issue” and had nothing to do with the ongoing party deliberations, the Archbishop said.
The top cleric is seen as seeking to influence the outcome of the vote in the House this Thursday, which has a bearing on the alliances that will be forged in the run-up to the 2013 presidential elections.
Relations between the Archbishop and the AKEL administration have never been cosy, particularly after the communist party backed a rival to Chrysostomos in the 2006 Church elections. A hardliner on the Cyprus issue, Chrysostomos has often censured the administration for perceived concessions in peace talks.
In order to be elected House Speaker, a candidate needs 50 per cent of the votes plus one (29 of the 56 seats). Incumbent Marios Garoyian was a dead cert for a second term, but the results of last week’s parliamentary elections denied the AKEL-DIKO partnership the golden number.
Dissent from within has added to Garoyian’s woes; DIKO deputy Zacharias Koulias has declared he will not back Garoyian, because doing so would endorse the AKEL-DIKO alliance, to which he is opposed.
In political circles, it is no secret that Koulias is displeased with Garoyian. During the recent election campaign the DIKO leader is said to have favoured Anastasia Tsokkou, Koulias’ main rival for the DIKO seat in the Famagusta district. Koulias won the seat regardless.
The MP has said he will announce his decision on June 2, the day the House elects its new Speaker.
Meanwhile Giorgos Colocassides, another renegade DIKO cadre, said yesterday he too was opposed to Garoyian’s nomination.
At a news conference in Nicosia, Colocassides explained that he was against the AKEL administration’s concessions in reunification talks, adding that he could not in good conscience participate in a process that would cement the AKEL-DIKO partnership. He further lent his support to Koulias.
Garoyian responded immediately with a written statement saying “unfortunately” he will have to raise the issue of Colocassides’ “anti-party behaviour” within the party’s collective organs.
He added that at the next meeting of DIKO’s Executive Office, Garoyian will argue that Coloccasides has effectively put himself out of the party by opposing the Executive Office’s unanimous decision to support the party leader’s candidacy.
The plot thickened on Sunday evening when AKEL’s Andros Kyprianou confirmed rumours of a backdoor deal offered him by DISY chief Nicos Anastassiades.
The two had reportedly met at a private gathering last Thursday, during which Anastassiades is said to have proposed that DISY and AKEL share the House presidency. Under the proposal – which DISY officials later scrambled to downplay – Anastassiades and Kyprianou would in turn each serve as House Speaker for two-and-a-half years.
Kyprianou told newsmen he rejected the offer, as he believed it to be “insincere”.
But the disclosure may have driven a wedge into a possible collaboration between EDEK and DISY for the House presidency. DISY had previously hinted it would back Omirou for the position. By revealing that DISY is exploring other options, Kyprianou was likely sending a message to EDEK that DISY is an unreliable partner, commentators said.
Still, as it stands neither Omirou nor Garoyian can muster the required 29 votes. The election process, however, allows for a way around a deadlock, since it provides for a second and even a third count, where the successful nominee is the one who simply gets the highest number of ballots. Though the parties are keen to avoid that situation, it is looking increasingly probable.
DISY’s Political Bureau meets today to take a “final decision” on the matter. That may be somewhat premature, given the fluid situation.
With their single seat in parliament, the Greens can play the role of kingmaker. The party has said it will reach a decision tomorrow.
Perhaps seizing on their new-found clout, the Greens yesterday reiterated their proposal for a horizontal voting system.
Greens MP George Perdikis said acceptance of their proposal would weigh heavily on the party’s choice of House Speaker. He added that they have already received a positive response from DIKO’s Garoyian and were now waiting to hear from DISY and AKEL.
Perdikis, who has not ruled out standing for House Speaker himself, denied speculation that he is due to meet President Christofias on the latter’s return to the island. Among other things, commentators have suggested that Perdikis may be offered a ministerial portfolio (Ministry of Agriculture) in exchange for his support of Garoyian.
Likely scenarios so far
First, Garoyian wins with the full support of AKEL, DIKO and the Greens’ single vote. He gets 29 votes to Omirou’s maximum of 28.
Second, if Koulias abstains from voting, but the Greens’ George Perdikis joins AKEL and DIKO, then Garoyian wins by 28 votes to Omirou’s 27.
Third, if Koulias backs Omirou along with DISY, EDEK, the European Party and the Greens, Omirou wins by 29 votes to Garoyian’s 27.
Fourth, a tie: AKEL and DIKO vote for Garoyian, while Omirou is supported by DISY, EDEK, the European Party and the Greens. Each candidate gets 28 votes, and it’s not clear how the impasse can be resolved. Yet another possibility is for Koulias to vote for Omirou and for the Greens to cast their ballot for Garoyian, in which case the two contenders again get 28 votes each.
Source: Cyprus Mail