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Our View: Disappointing start with male-dominated party-heavy new cabinet
THERE is no shabbier business in Cypriot politics than the horse-trading that goes on before the announcement of the members of the Council of Ministers by a new president. Party leaders, party hangers-on, ‘important personalities’ and leading citizens all flock to the president-elect’s office to seek appointment either for themselves or some friend they are convinced would make a great minister.
It was no different this time. President-elect Nicos Anastasiades had pledged to form a national salvation government in which he would invite all parties to participate, but worse still, he was indebted to DIKO which helped his election and would be demanding a sizeable share of the spoils in exchange for this support. DIKO always cashes in its election support to a successful candidate, to the detriment of the cabinet.
The problem is that the president is always short-changed in this arrangement, because the people that DIKO appoints rarely add value to the cabinet. For instance, the appointment of the former leader of the state doctors’ union at the health ministry defied belief. Could a union boss, accustomed to promoting the interest of his members, be trusted to pursue the introduction of the much-needed national health scheme? And was a DIKO party hack the best man to entrust the education ministry to?
In fact there was an over-reliance on senior party members, the president-elect appointing only one minister who did not come from a political party – Michalis Sarris as finance minister. While it is understandable for a president to want to have his close associates working with him in government and to feel obliged to reward the parties that supported him, we still would have expected him to have appointed a few independents; even a staunch party man like Christofias managed that.
Worse still, there was not a single woman in the new cabinet. How representative could a government without a female minister be? It was ironic that Anastasiades invited all parties except AKEL to participate in his government, so it would be broadly representative, but did not consider it necessary to include a woman in the cabinet. After all, women only make up 50 per cent of the population.
In mitigation, it must be said that the president-elect’s choices were restricted as a result of his alliance with DIKO, but people were still entitled to expect a less party- and male-dominated cabinet. We can only hope that the restrictions imposed on Anastasiades in choosing his cabinet will not be evident when he is running the country.