Clerides turns the tables on Serezis

By Charlie Charalambous

GOVERNMENT Spokesman Costas Serezis packed his bags to go on holiday yesterday, but there may not be a job to come back to after President Clerides appeared to close the door on his future.

Since the Serezis saga began, the spokesman has claimed all along that he had the full backing of the president, but yesterday’s message from the Presidential Palace told a different story.

“In reference to the Government Spokesman’s statements against Disy and its leadership, I would like to clarify that I do not share them,” said Clerides’ brief announcement.

“On the contrary, I express my appreciation for the close co-operation with Disy in general and specifically the leadership.”

Clerides was forced to issue the statement following Serezis’ unprecedented Thursday attack on the ruling party, in which he accusing it of trying to score cheap political points by using the spokesman as a scapegoat.

Serezis said Clerides had given him the green light to take on his detractors after refusing to accept his resignation on three occasions this week.

“It is a fact that Mr Serezis submitted his resignation three times, the last time in writing. I did not accept his resignation, because as is known I do not take decisions under pressure,” said the Clerides announcement.

Disy have been calling for the spokesman’s head accusing him of being a media disaster and a man who has done more to harm the government’s image than improve it.

Clerides understands that he owes his position to the party he created, and cannot turn his back on the only major party left to support his government.

But the president’s loyalty to his Cabinet members is legendary and he is not one to opt for knee-jerk reactions in order to please public opinion.

He proved how stubborn that loyalty can be in the more damaging sleaze allegation that swirled for months around then interior minister Dinos Michaelides, as well as in his recent support for besieged defence minister Yiannakis Chrysostomis.

But following Clerides’ terse statement yesterday, the informed speculation is that Serezis will be booted out of office in a mini-reshuffle some time in September.

And Disy boss Nicos Anastassiades seemed to be plunging the knife further into Serezis’ back, when he told reporters after meeting Clerides yesterday: “for the party, he (Serezis) is past history.”

Anastassiades — who has labelled the spokesman “ungrateful and arrogant” — said after yesterday’s meeting with Clerides that Serezis had been “out of order” during Thursday’s outburst.

“There is no split between the party and the president,” said Anastassiades.

“I agree it (the row) damages the government’s image,” said Anastassiades, wondering if any other country has a spokesman who attacked the party which supported the government.

The Disy leader has not flinched during his very public row with Serezis and yesterday described the spokesman’s scathing attack on Disy as the desperate act of a man “fighting to keep his chair”.

Disy maintains that Clerides agrees with its view that Serezis is the wrong man for the job and must go sooner rather than later.