Spokesman Defends President, Points to Turkey Threats
A dispute over early presidential elections would not serve the island's national interests amid Turkey's threats over offshore oil-and-gas exploration rights, said government spokesman Stefanos Stefanou in response to criticism from opposition leader Nikos Anastassiades (above) who has called for early elections.
Yesterday, opposition parties were united in their demands for President Christofias to step down in the wake of an investigation finding him mainly responsible for the July 11th explosion at Evangelos Florakis naval base.
Anastassiades has called for early elections or for the president to resign, saying that Christofias has lost the public's mandate to lead them. The opposition leader would stand a strong chance of winning the presidency in early elections and with the current opposition majority in parliament, his conservative party DISY would control the legislature and the government.
Leftist president Christofias' approval ratings have plummeted since the deadly blast, with almost daily calls for him to step down. He has so far refused to do so and has strongly rejected personal responsibility for the explosion. The next presidential elections are scheduled for 2013.
"We invite all those who demand the president's resignation to consider...Cyprus is defending its national sovereignty rights, addressing economic and energy issues and meeting the requirements of the EU presidency," said Stefanou.
The public demands that the political leadership unites, communicates and cooperates for stability and not present petty political or electoral agendas which will lead to instability, he said. His position is backed by communist party AKEL, whose general-secretary Andros Kyprianou hit back at opposition calls for early elections, describing them as a "political coup".
Red herring tactic blasted by opposition
But in public debates on television and radio shows, political opposition figures say that they no longer trust the president to effectively handle difficult issues like the Cyprus problem or the development of an oil-and-gas industry. Their general consensus was that after the president was found to be responsible for the disaster at Mari naval base, leaving the same man in charge of Cyprus reunification talks and other national issues could potentially lead to more disasters.
Christofias is now being compared to Nixon and Blair in political opposition circles, both of whom were investigated for breaches of the public's trust. The government's attempts to point to national interests and Turkish threats are just red herrings intended to divert blame for the explosion from the president, say opposition figures. Responding to AKEL's accusation of a "political coup", DISY asked "since when has turning to the people's vote been a coup?"
"AKEL is seeing phantoms. Mr. Christofias should be the first to ask for a renewal of the people's mandate," said DISY spokesman Haris Georgiades
On October 3rd, a public inquiry led by barrister Polys Polyviou found that the president, former foreign minister Markos Kyprianou and former defence minister Costas Papacostas were personally and politically responsible for the July 11th explosion that killed 13 men and injured 62. The explosion at the base turned into a national disaster after the island's main electricity plant Vasiliko was critically damaged, resulting in daily power cuts around the island.
The findings of a parallel criminal investigation were handed over to Attorney-general Petrol Clerides yesterday (October 4th) and communist party AKEL said it will study the outcome. But prominent lawyer Christos Triantaffylides questioned this, saying that nobody but the attorney-general has the right to study the results of a confidential police investigation and that Clerides should have made a statement to that effect. If the Cyprus justice system is interfered with by political parties, it would be a very negative development, said Triantaffylides in comments to SigmaTV.
Photo of Nikos Anastassiades: DISY
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