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Candidates butt heads on economy and domestic issues
THE THREE main contenders in Sunday’s presidential elections yesterday discussed the economy and domestic policy for the third and final televised live debate, broadcast by four main TV channels Sigma, Ant1, CyBC and Mega.
A number of protesters claiming to have been duped by banks into investing in risky bonds were waiting for the candidates to show up outside state broadcaster CyBC.
Tensions arose when AKEL-backed Stavros Malas passed them by at the gate but he did return to speak to them, defusing the situation. DISY leader Nicos Anastasiades and EDEK-backed Giorgos Lillikas also took a moment to talk to the protesters, all claiming they would support them.
Journalists and candidates alike stuck to the subject matter of the economy and the need to sign a memorandum agreement with Cyprus’ international lenders.
Malas stuck to AKEL’s line in relation to who was responsible for Cyprus’ nearly bankrupt state. He blamed the global crisis and the banks’ risky behaviour. “We need to ensure that no second bailout loan is necessary,” Malas said, a point he kept returning to.
He was also asked to comment on the Mari naval base blast in 2011 that killed 13 people, knocked out the main power station, and led thousands in the streets demanding the President’s resignation. The attorney general who looked at the police report on criminal responsibility did not find that the president was criminally responsible, Malas said, adding that the opposition took advantage of the situation to drive people to the streets.
Lillikas tried to assert himself as an independent candidate, despite his support by EDEK. “I'm not part of the political status quo,” Lillikas said. “My commitment is towards the public,” he said.
Using natural gas to disengage from the bailout as soon as possible, was again the focus of Lillikas’ proposals, but he was also asked to comment on reports of certain practices while he served as commerce minister for the Tassos Papadopoulos government, allegedly implicating himself and his wife in dodgy dealings.
Lillikas claimed that daily Politis that published the reports, supported Anastasiades’ candidacy and the mudslinging was only proof that they were worried he would get through to a second round, which would determine the winner. “It is all untrue. This time I will not accept just an apology. I will get compensation and donate it to charity,” Lillikas said.
Anastasiades focused on his proposals – laid out in 49 draft laws – that would limit the terms of state officials, clarify their responsibilities, and scrutinise decisions to appoint them.
“We will not rest with electoral promises,” Anastasiades said adding that his proposals would become law.
He dismissed suggestions that he was a ‘yes-man’, all too willing to yield to his European partners.
“People want someone who knows how to create relations with those from whom he will later claim things,” he said.
At the end of the debate all three candidates were given two minutes to address viewers and tell them why they should vote for them.
They all looked straight into the camera and promised new hope and new beginnings.