President Lashes Out at Parties Over Resignation Calls
President Demetris Christofias has lashed out at opposition parties, saying that he is sick and tired of being attacked amid calls for his resignation and outrage over of his rejection of a public inquiry finding him responsible for the deadly explosion at Evangelos Florakis naval base.
Opposition party DIKO has called for a planned tri-partite meeting with UN Secretary-general Ban ki-Moon to be postponed until the issue of the president's public support is dealt with through early elections. Their position is supported by the Green Party, whose spokeswoman Ioanna Panayiotou said that the crisis over the explosion and the loss of faith in the president means that going to a tri-partite meeting is full of dangers.
But the president, who is conducting reunification talks with Turkish-Cypriot leader Dervis Eroglu said: "the parties have already called for my resignation, what else are they going to call for? Postponements and other things? Enough. I'm tired of the parties' attacks." Under constitutional law the president can resign of his own volition but cannot be forced into it by the House of Representatives.
"I exercise my Constitutional duties under the people's mandate. And nobody has the right to contest this mandate before the end of any president's term," said Christofias.
During yesterday's six-hour meeting with Eroglu, Christofias said that the process of 'give and take' did not start. Instead, the leaders discussed police issues, EU issues, internal security and the economy in a 'Cypriot atmosphere', said Christofias.
UN Special Representative Lisa Buttenheim said that a new phase has started in the talks.
"We have entered this new phase now so they had a discussion on a number of issues. To say that they have, I mean, you know, we have entered into this new phase but, how, I don’t want to characterize it other than to say that they did discuss extensively different issues," said Buttenheim.
The give-and-take phase is generally viewed as a final attempt to achieve agreement on the most difficult chapters of reunification talks - governance and power sharing, property issues and guarantor countries amongst others. The leaders' next meeting is on Tuesday October 11th.
Can Christofias sell a reunification plan?
Amid the loss of trust in the president, the big question on opposition parties' minds is whether Christofias can negotiate a plan that can be supported by the Greek-Cypriot side.
Opposition party leader Nikos Anastassiades has called for the president to step down or call early elections, citing the public's loss of trust in Christofias' government. The president no longer has a mandate to lead the country, say opposition parties, pointing to opinion polls and mass demonstrations that have been held since the blast on July 11th.
Opposition parties DISY, EDEK, and DIKO say there are suggestions on the table to propose a consensus candidate to serve as interim President of the Republic should President Demetris Christofias decided to resign after all.
The idea is being considered as a counter to AKEL's argument that the president should not resign because the island faces an immediate crisis over Turkey's threats on offshore oil and gas exploration rights. If a consensus candidate is ready to take over in the case that the president resigns, then there would be no interruption of government during the 45-day period before new elections, say opposition parties.
EDEK and DIKO also said they are considering suspending talks with AKEL on December 18th municipal elections in the wake of the president's refusal to take responsibility for the deadly explosion at Mari. AKEL Spokesman George Loukaides said that this "can't be justified for any reason," but failed to convince EDEK and DIKO, whose representatives said they would decide next week.
Earlier this week, Christofias point-blank refused to resign - a position supported by his Council of Ministers.
"The President of the Republic does not resign!" Christofias said to a crowd of loyal AKEL party members.
On October 3rd, Polys Polyviou, who heads a public inquiry into the explosion, said he holds Christofias, former Defence Minister Costas Papacostas and former Foreign Minister Markos Kyprianou mainly responsible both politically and personally for the deadly blast.
Christofias, as head of state, has the heaviest responsibility for the tragedy which took 13 lives, said Polyviou in a press conference in Nicosia.
"I have no doubt that serious criminal charges like manslaughter will have to be investigated by the Attorney-general in connection with all involved, without exception" he said as he was giving his findings in a government-appointed investigation that started on August 28th.
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