Interview with the General Secretary of AKEL Stefanos Stefanou:

With Mavroyiannis – to put an end to the downhill slide

Sunday 10 July 2022, “Fileleftheros” newspaper

QUESTION: You have taken your decisions on the presidential election and are entering the battle. How will you proceed? Is there coordination with Andreas Mavroyiannis?

SS: Of course there is coordination with Andreas Mavroyiannis and his election campaign team. This is absolutely logical and necessary. AKEL will devote all its forces to the difficult battle of the presidential elections. The Party’s central, district and local electoral campaign committees have already been set up and visits to neighborhoods and work places have intensified. A relevant AKEL leaflet on the candidacy of Andreas Mavroyiannis has been published, which is being distributed during the visits and meetings we are organising. The road map of the election campaign has been elaborated and we have now entered the stage of implementing our plans.

QUESTION: Andreas Mavroyiannis stresses that at Crans Montana he did not conclude that Turkey had any intention to abolish guarantees and that he himself fought harder than anyone for zero troops and zero guarantees. He also said that he is haunted by the first haircut. I would like your comments.

– SS: The criticism that we as AKEL made of Nicos Anastasiades is that at Crans Montana he didn’t correctly handle developments so that Turkey would be judged for its real intentions at the negotiating table. With the erroneous handlings he made, the President of the Republic permitted the occupying power Turkey to leave Crans Montana with the international community praising it for its stand. At the same time N. Anastasiades was assigned equal responsibilities for the failure of the conference.

Consequently, at this point a difference in assessment arises for which A.Mavroyiannis states that history will judge who is ultimately correct. Mr. Mavroyiannis went on to add that at that Crans Montana an effort should have been made to continue the conference so that we do not miss the opportunity presented before us for a solution of the Cyprus problem. We agree with this position. A historic opportunity has been lost, and we should at least have made an effort to keep it alive.

QUESTION: On the issue of the haircut on bank deposits?

SS: Mr. Mavroyiannis’ reference to the first haircut was in relation to the outcome of the second haircut, not that the imposition of the haircut was a good solution. For that reason, this position has a theoretical significance. For us, the important thing was to avoid the haircut and despite the fact that N.Anastasiades pledged during the election that he would avoid imposing a haircut on bank deposits, he eventually agreed to it, laying the blame on others.

Regarding the position of “zero troops and zero guarantees” as far as AKEL is concerned, it is and remains a goal that must be provided for in the solution of the Cyprus problem. The issue at stake here is not the position on “zero troops”, but when and how can this be achieved. Insisting on “zero troops” from day one will undermine any prospect of a solution. Andreas Mavroyiannis declares himself a supporter of “zero troops” as an aspiration, hence the reference to it. Beyond that, anyone who is involved in a serious way on the Cyprus problem knows that “zero troops” cannot be achieved on the first day of the solution and that a transitional period is required to be implemented.

QUESTION: Do the people of AKEL accept these positions? For many, they are not different positions, but disagreements. What response do you get from your people?

SS: What the people of AKEL are primarily interested in is how we get out of the current prolonged impasse on the Cyprus problem that is leading us ever closer to permanent partition. Does Andreas Mavroyiannis have the knowledge and the will to break this deadlock? The answer is unquestionably yes. With Andreas Mavroyiannis we agreed that specific initiatives need to be taken to create momentum for the resumption of the negotiations from the point where they had remained at Crans Montana in order to conclude the effort to arrive at a comprehensive solution. The people of AKEL are focusing on this point, as well as on the Party’s positions as I have outlined them.

QUESTION: Will AKEL participate in the administration of the country? Is this an issue you have discussed with Andreas Mavroyiannis?

SS: No, we have not discussed the issue of our participation in a government. We have not had such a discussion, neither inside the Party, nor with Andreas Mavroyiannis. AKEL has never set
participation in the government as a precondition and prerequisite. There are two key issues that always determine AKEL’s decisions on presidential elections as to its support of a candidate: first, there must be convergences recorded on the main political pillars that determine the course of the country and, secondly, the candidate AKEL will support must have such characteristics that ensure that with determination, collectivity, honesty and sincerity he or she will lead the country with public interest at the epicenter and society’s needs as a guiding compass. To support the many and not the privileged few, as has been the case in recent years. Undoubtedly, one of the principal criteria is the electability of a candidate. The candidacy of Andreas Mavroyiannis meets all these criteria, which is precisely why we have decided to support him.

QUESTION: Why should citizens choose Andreas Mavroyiannis?

SS: To end the downhill slide, turn the page and change course. This is the goal which take son a practical substance through the presentation of a specific, feasible and progressive programme of governance. The candidacy of Andreas Mavroyiannis is not a traditional, if I may say so, candidacy. First of all, it is a genuinely independent candidacy. Andreas Mavroyiannis has never belonged to any party. He did not decide at some point to declare himself independent, as Nikos Christodoulides is doing right now at the same time as he declares himself to be a member of the ruling DISY party.

Andreas Mavroyiannis does not like empty talk, nor does he believe that he is some kind of messiah who will solve all problems with a magic wand. He has not and will not enter into the logic of making a plethora of promises. We have seen this tactic employed by the outgoing government.

Citizens want a President who is characterised by social sensitivity so that he can understand and share people’s anxieties, problems and aspirations. The outgoing government lacks such sensitivity. It never had it, even though now both N. Christodoulides and the President of the ruling DISY party A. Neophytou, are now appearing with a pro-people’s agenda. Ten years of this government’s practical actions demonstrate exactly the opposite is true.

Society wants a President who understands that what is legal is not necessarily moral. In this era where corruption and entanglement/interwoven interests have reached unprecedented levels, it is very important for someone to be and appear honest. And this is precisely what A.Mavroyiannis represents.

QUESTION: Will AKEL inject Andreas Mavroyiannis’ programme with its own proposals? How will this be done?

SS: It is logical that AKEL, as the major opposition party supporting the candidacy of Andreas Mavroyiannis, will discuss and submit specific proposals for their inclusion in the candidate’s election programme. Andreas Mavroyiannis stated that he will begin a dialogue with organised groups to formulate his programme. He even expressed his readiness to inject it with ideas and proposals that will emerge from this dialogue.

AKEL will certainly participate in the dialogue by tabling its own positions and proposals. I am sure that numerous AKEL proposals will find their place in Andreas Mavroyiannis’ programme. Besides, the preliminary meetings we had with him revealed many convergences and common perceptions on numerous core issues.

QUESTION: Will you inject both his election campaign and his staff with your own cadres as well? Will someone assume the role of coordinator?

SS: Andreas Mavroyiannis has already set up his own election campaign team and started to staff it. In addition to the central staff, district teams/groups will also be set up and the necessary contacts with numerous personalities are already being made. These election campaign teams will be staffed by persons who have expressed their support towards Mr. Mavroyiannis’ candidacy and who make up his support movements. It is with satisfaction that we note that the candidacy has penetrated various political and party spectrums beyond that of AKEL. Members of AKEL will also have a place in these election campaign teams, but there will be no leading Party members, as they are necessary for the election campaign which the Party will conduct in parallel and in coordination with the campaign team of Andreas Mavroyiannis.

QUESTION: You have excluded from the very beginning both Averof Neofytou and Nikos Christodoulides. In the second round of the presidential elections, what will you do – particularly if the candidate you support is not in the second round after all.

SS: We are not going to get into such a dilemma, because Andreas Mavroyiannis will be in the second round. While the other two main candidates have been running their candidacy for some time – and I am not adding to that the long time they have been preparing it – Andreas Mavroyiannis, in the two weeks, in fact, that he has been promoting his candidacy, is already gathering momentum. I do not want to cultivate any illusions that the election battle will be easy, far from it, but the prospects and opportunities are there and we will make the most of them through our work.

QUESTION: DISY President A. Neofytou suggests that the dilemma is between ensuring continuity with the DISY party in power and the continuation of the course of stability, or the opposition in government and experimentations, referring to the AKEL government. What dilemma do you pose to society in these elections?

SS: What course of stability is A.Neofytou talking about?

Is it the fact that Cyprus was shamed and disgraced all over the world because of the government’s ‘golden’ passport scheme and the fact that the European Commission clearly states that it has no confidence in the Cypriot authorities?

Is it the fact that the DISY government has made Cyprus untrustworthy internationally and without any credibility?

Is it the appointments of supposed “excellent of the excellent” of the Yiannis Giannakis type?

Or the many presidential worthless “pledges” to the point that they have become a joke?

Or the course towards permanent partition on the Cyprus problem with the international community assigning responsibility on the Greek Cypriot side too at the same time as Turkey is being praised?

We are not putting forth any dilemma before society as it is conditions themselves that pose it: do citizens want a continuation of the deadlocks and the free fall in which Cyprus finds itself or do they want us to change course and turn a new page for the country? It is up to citizens to do so. It is everyone’s cause and everyone must assume their responsibility. Together we can achieve progressive change by supporting the independent candidacy of Andreas Mavroyiannis.

QUESTION: You are talking about a collective effort by society. But so far there is no sign of cooperation with any other political force. Doesn’t that worry you?

SS: You are correct to say “so far”, because there are still three political forces that have not yet taken their decisions. There is also civil society, which is organised and active through various movements and other forms of organised participation and collective expression. The candidacy of Andreas Mavroyiannis addresses both the political forces and civil society. Each political force takes its decisions and each is judged by citizens as to whether they are in line with whatever declarations they made from time to time.

As we mean exactly what we say about the need to get rid of the deadlocks caused by the DISY government, we have gone the extra mile and decided to support an independent candidate to make it easier for all those who share with us the need for change. The invitation-challenge is there, we are ready to forge cooperation. We address it both to the political forces and society in general. Change is everyone’s responsibility. We have assumed our fair share of responsibility, we expect others to do the same.

QUESTION: Democratic Party President Nicolas Papadopoulos proposed Nicos Christodoulides to you twice (during the talks between you) and that you rejected his candidacy, as he said?

SS: In the meetings with Nicolas Papadopoulos, various names were mentioned, by way of a sounding out and not a proposal. Among the names was the name of Nikos Christodoulides. From the beginning of our meetings, I had made it quite clear to Mr. Papadopoulos that we were not discussing the names of Averof Neophytou or Nikos Christodoulides. For us they are two sides of the same coin.

Our arguments are clear and logical. How can we support a leading member of a government which DIKO described as the most corrupt?

How can we support a politician who declares himself to be a DISY member and the successor to a government that is responsible for many of the deadlocks facing our country and society?

DIKO has been extremely critical of Mr. Christodoulides personally for many of these deadlocks, accusing him of incompetence and erroneous choices.

What has changed in such a short period of time and now the leadership of DIKO is embellishing and idealizing the former Foreign Minister of the most “corrupt government”?

QUESTION: Looking at the facts from some distance of time, why didn’t you arrive at an agreement with DIKO?

SS: Because DIKO insisted on the candidacy of its leader N. Papadopoulos, while we were discussing a candidacy of wider acceptance. We believed that we had to facilitate breakthroughs in order to achieve a broader cooperation. This could not be achieved by insisting on a candidate from the leaderships of the parties. We remained consistent to this position, which is why we decided to support the independent candidacy of Mr. Mavroyiannis.

We fully respect the right of each party to take its own decisions, but I must admit that it is with surprise that we saw DIKO decide to support the candidacy of Mr. Christodoulides, whom they are now christening as an independent candidate, whereas we were being told that they were proposing only the candidacy of Mr. Papadopoulos.

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