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AKEL: It’s not really a defeat
THE MOOD may have been sombre at the Stavros Malas campaign headquarters last night but just a few streets away, the AKEL top brass were quietly tickled that the outgoing ruling party survived the global and national economic downturn relatively unscathed.
Once the first exit polls showed Nicos Anastasiades as the clear winner, the atmosphere among volunteers and supporters at the Malas headquarters became rather bleak.
As the news trickled out that Anastasiades had cemented victory in the second round, one cigarette-smoking, whiskey-drinking supporter railed against TV networks for their biased reporting.
Pointing to one DIKO representative on a TV panel discussion, the same disillusioned supporter asked: “Is this man fit to be a cabinet minister?”
Another, monitoring the Interior Ministry website for a breakdown of Malas voters in each town and village, cursed Paphos for its failure to rally around their candidate.
By 7pm, you could count the number of people in and around the Malas headquarters on a small abacus. The lingering silence was broken by the sound of blaring car horns from Makarios Avenue, screaming of Anastasiades’ victory through the office windows.
Watching television footage of DIKO voters celebrating, one campaign official said: “Five years ago we were celebrating together. Now they’re celebrating again but this time on the other side.”
Lido Yiasemaki, who fought against the junta in 1974, said she was deeply disappointed by Anastasiades’ election.
“We have experienced so much suffering in this country for which certain people are responsible, and now, we reward those people,” said Yiasemaki, who is also Malas’ aunt.
The campaign team may have been disappointed but by all accounts, Malas, the political newcomer, did well.
A geneticist before his brief stint as health minister under Demetris Christofias, Malas got 42.52 per cent of the vote counting for 175,267 votes. That’s 56,512 more than in the first round, with only AKEL endorsing his candidacy.
A little after 7pm, Malas came out to make a statement flanked by his wife and four children on the one side, and top AKEL and government officials on the other, including Nicos Katsourides, Kikis Kazamias, Stefanos Stefanou, Sophoclis Aletraris and Efthymios Flourentzou.
Malas congratulated Anastasiades for his victory and described the election result as “extremely honourable under the circumstances”, considering that only one party supported his candidacy.
“We gave a good fight in harsh and unfair conditions, in a climate anything other than friendly,” he said.
Asked what his next steps would be, he said: “Let’s leave that for a future discussion.”
As for his plans for the rest of the night, he replied, somewhat exasperated, “I’m going to rest with my family”.
A stone’s throw from the Malas campaign offices is the AKEL headquarters where Malas and his team made their way to pay their respects to AKEL leader Andros Kyprianou. A few dozen people waited outside.
Speaking to reporters, Kyprianou said: “The election result makes AKEL a strong opposition.”
He noted that under “very difficult conditions”, including a global and Cypriot economic crisis, the Mari blast and unrelenting criticism against Christofias and the AKEL government, they achieved “a very positive” result.
AKEL returns as opposition “with high numbers, powerful, upright with our heads held high and ready to play our part in order to serve the interests of Cyprus and the Cypriot people”.
He hinted that AKEL’s relationship with Malas would continue though this would have to be discussed with the losing candidate at a later date.
AKEL sources echoed Kyprianou’s statement that the result was really a victory. Given that defeat was considered a given; the question was by how much.
Considering Greece’s socialist party PASOK imploded after ruling during the economic crisis, as did other European parties recently, AKEL feels that it came out relatively unscathed.
A few months back, when Malas first announced his candidacy, the left-wing party would have been happy to get even a third of the vote.
Now, with 43 per cent, the party leadership feels it fought off the negative legacy of the Christofias government while attracting votes from the political centre, though the divisive nature of Anastasiades’ candidacy may have also helped.
It remains to be seen whether AKEL can keep the high numbers in opposition and how Christofias decides to act when he leaves the presidential palace.
With defeat anticipated, however, the question does arise, why did Malas choose to go through this ordeal? Was he fulfilling a debt, carrying out a moral obligation or building for the future?