The President has made Cyprus part of the problem in the Middle East
Interview with Aristos Damianou, member of the Secretariat and Political Bureau of AKEL
Sunday 21 April 2024, “Haravgi” newspaper
QUESTION: The situation in our region continues to be volatile. As AKEL, do you consider that what needs to be done is being done in order for Cyprus to be safe in case of a more generalised crisis?
AD: The situation is both unstable and dangerous as a result of the ongoing genocide of the Palestinians being committed by Israel. The looming involvement of Iran in a new front may lead to a widening of the conflict and thus to further inflammation.
Unfortunately, at a time when our neighbourhood is literally on fire, not only is the President of the Republic not doing what he should be doing, but – on the contrary – he is doing everything he should not be doing. He has expressed full support towards the criminal leader of Israel, who is leading a bloody war against the Palestinian people.
He is providing everything for the transfer of military equipment and the waging of operations and military exercises [in Cyprus] related to the war in Gaza and the Arab world in general.
In short, he has made Cyprus part of the problem, making our homeland dangerously a target.
Cyprus’ role should have been that of providing humanitarian aid alone. Unfortunately, both former President Anastasiades and now his successor, despite AKEL’s strong disagreement, are step by step seeking to transform Cyprus into a NATO base, with dangerous implications.
What the region needs is an immediate ceasefire, an end to the war and the provision of humanitarian aid to the struggling people of Palestine.
Mr Christodoulides either has no understanding of the dangers he is putting Cyprus in, or his concern to please the Western power is being put over the interests of our people.
QUESTION: We have these facts before us, we have the developments on the migration issue, we have the UN Secretary General’s envoy on the Cyprus problem María Angela Holguín Cuéllar, but also President Christodoulides’ statements about proposals submitted to him by the UN Secretary General. Is AKEL, but also the parties in general, aware of what is happening?
AD: I want to make a specific reference to the Migration issue before answering the general issue of the lack of briefing, prior consultation and a collective attitude.
Unfortunately, Mr Christodoulides has turned a serious issue that demands a comprehensive handling, such as the migration/refugee issue, into an issue for popular consumption, feeding racism and intolerance and adopting illegal practices such as violent pushbacks, the well-known pushbacks.
Instead of asserting solidarity from the EU and the equal sharing of migrant/refugee flows, he has accepted a package of measures that will continue to trap people in Cyprus. Right-wing DISY acted similarly in the European Parliament, in order to please the EPP instead of demanding solidarity and the sharing of migratory flows, as AKEL and the Left in Europe did.
Whatever they say in public, President Christodoulides and Parliamentary Speaker Anita Demetriou [DISY party], when they are among the EPP’s salons, instead of asserting for Cyprus, they choose to be liked by the EU’s ruling elite.
On the issue of parties being briefed [of developments], the President’s attitude towards AKEL, the only real opposition force, is unacceptable and betrays a lack of respect. If on the migration issue the ruling government forces are being scrutinised for a lack of briefing and consultation, on the Cyprus problem things are even more serious.
We have repeatedly requested to be briefed in writing. We have sent numerous proposals and letters. We have requested a meeting of the National Council [Note: an advisory body to the given President of all political parties and former Presidents on the Cyprus problem]. Mr Christodoulides believes that there is no need to convene it. Since he is acting unilaterally, since he is not consulting the political parties, he will bear full responsibility for his actions and decisions.
Of course, AKEL, through its contacts and prestige, is receiving information. However, there is no official briefing on the part of the President. He will be judged in a strict and severe manner on all these issues.
QUESTION: In relation to economic matters, things are also getting worse, both regarding fuel prices and price increases/expensiveness, which are constantly rising. AKEL has tabled specific proposals to address the problems. Are there any proposals still pending from your Party?
AD: What Cypriot society is experiencing today, especially the lower middle strata and the vulnerable groups of the population, is impoverishment. The responsibilities of the ten-year Anastasiades-DISY government are enormous. Of course, given that the Christodoulides government, apart from individual actions, is generally following the same path and implementing policies pursued over this DISY decade, thus it bears this responsibility.
AKEL acted promptly by submitting proposals on the issue of VAT, double taxation on fuel and now we are moving forward with proposals for the taxation of the windfall super-profits of the banks and energy companies. It has put forward a fully costed proposal that will permit the state to strengthen the government’s deficient social policy, even though the money is there, as long as those in power finally demonstrate social sensitivity instead of callousness, of which the government’s decision to end the fuel subsidy is indicative.
QUESTION: On 9 June, the European and local elections will be held. What is AKEL aiming for in these two electoral contests?
AD: For the local government elections, which will as from 1 July lead to the new era of local government Reform, AKEL has listened to the needs of local communities and their people, it has listened to its cadres, members and friends and presented a strong electoral list that reflects the political identity of the Left, but also the further opening up to society.
At the same time, given the increased opportunities and responsibilities that are being created, we have chosen as candidates for the Presidents of the District Organizations, Mayors and deputy Mayors, people with knowledge, experience and who have made a proven contribution. Therefore, we are optimistic that we will elect increased numbers to leadership positions and record increased percentages in our electoral lists.
As far as the AKEL – Left – Social Alliance European electoral list is concerned, what we are receiving from society is that we have drawn up a complete, strong and representative electoral list.
AKEL was the first to put gender balance between men and women into practice, we are following up the participation of a Turkish Cypriot compatriot, there are three party members and three broader candidates in our list and, in general, we are presenting a strong political proposal that we believe has the potential to win. Victory will mean significantly increased percentages compared to the last national elections and the election of two MEP’s. We have a strong belief that the result of the upcoming elections can mark a path of recovery and the steady growth of AKEL.
● The dilemma is between progress and conservatism
QUESTION: Indeed, the rallying of AKEL’s voters seems to have reached a high level. How can this be translated?
AD: Without being complacent, it is true that a good rallying of our voters is being recorded. But we are fifty days away from the elections. I address an appeal for us to continue and intensify the effort in our personal contacts and communication with the people. AKEL’s political message and political stamp must reach every home.
In recent years we have been making a conscious effort for our Party’s organisational reconstruction, improving our efficiency, meeting with our people who at some point either became disillusioned or for objective reasons ceased to participate and of course, we are fighting to broaden our electoral base.
In today’s Cyprus of 2024 the dilemma is specific, namely between progress and conservatism. Therefore, if the rallying around our electoral list, if the appeal of our electoral list continues to grow, we are optimistic about the outcome of the election result – always provided that we will continue to work collectively, dynamically and with confidence until the polls close.

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