Thursday, 21 February 2008

It's getting dirty

Following Tuesday night's decision by centrist DIKO to support the communist Dimitris Christofias and not the conservative Ioannis Cassoulides in this Sunday's run off in the Cypriot presidential elections, the campaign got dirty yesterday.

Specifically, the conservative party, DISY, bitterly denounced the DIKO/AKEL pact and appealed to DIKO voters to ignore the recommendations of its party leadership and did this by raising the spectre of a communist-led government bent on dismantling Hellenic national culture and education on the island.

Indeed, DISY’s line of attack won immediate support from the head of the Cyprus church, Archbishop Chrysostomos II, who warned that a Christofias administration would remove Greek Orthodox religious instruction from schools and urged his flock to unreservedly back the church-going Cassoulides, as did two EOKA veterans’ organisations – EOKA was the national liberation movement that fought the British colonial authorities for the union of Cyprus with Greece – and the boards of a number of prominent right-wing football clubs, including APOEL, Apollon Limassol, Anorthosis Famagusta, Olympiakos Nicosia, AEK Larnaca, Enosis Paralimni and Ethnikos Achnas.

Now, the exhortations of the Church, EOKA veterans and right-wing football clubs to back Cassoulides will put many DIKO supporters in a quandary since all these institutions are as much a part of a traditional DIKO supporter's identity and have as good a claim on his loyalty and way of thinking as his political party.

The problem for DISY, however – apart from the furious denials of AKEL that it is planning an assault on Greek education – is that this sudden rediscovery of its nationalist roots rings hollow, since not only did DISY back the Annan plan in 2004 – which would have been a disaster for Cypriot Hellenism – but also its leadership has spent the last five years engaged in a vitriolic campaign aimed at the now-ousted president, Tassos Papadopoulos – a DIKO man – and not for his alleged patriotic failings but for his alleged patriotic excesses.

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