Jockeying for position ahead of June 7 showdown

By Martin Hellicar

THE date: June 7. The venue: the House of Representatives, Nicosia. The event: the showdown between the ‘big two’, DISY and AKEL, for the House presidency.

Two days after the parliamentary elections, and DISY leader Nicos Anastassiades and AKEL chief Demetris Christofias were yesterday emerging as the main contenders for the coveted presidency of the parliamentary body.

Veteran KISOS leader Dr Vassos Lyssarides was also maintaining his interest in the prestigious position, but his party’s dismal showing in the polls had weakened his bargaining strength.

Elections for the House presidency are seen as a test-run for the real thing: the 2003 Presidential elections. With neither left-wingers AKEL nor right-wingers DISY having the strength within parliament or amongst the electorate to win either the June 7 or the 2003 vote outright, the key lies in striking up an agreement with one or more of the smaller parties.

DIKO, with nine parliamentary seats, would be the best coalition bet for both AKEL and DISY (who have 20 and 19 seats respectively). DIKO are not interested in getting one of their own into the House presidency seat and would favour a “personality of general acceptance”, party official Andreas Angelides said yesterday.

Lyssarides might fit the “general acceptance” bill, but the paltry four seats his KISOS party won on Sunday mean his own future as party leader, let alone his ambitions for the House presidency, seemed precarious yesterday. Lyssarides was defiant yesterday, saying his party’s showing at the polls had no bearing on the House presidency issue. The socialist party leader restated his interest in the post.

DIKO would most likely favour an alliance with AKEL rather than with DISY, but they would probably want AKEL first to agree to back DIKO leader Tassos Papadopoulos in 2003. AKEL are apparently loath to back Papadopoulos for next President.

DISY and AKEL could well decide to back their own leaders for the House presidency, especially as neither Anastassiades nor Christofias are seen as viable candidates for 2003.

Both Anastassiades and Christofias have been making no secret of their desire to stand for House leader, while being careful to state that the final decision rests not with them but with their parties.

The coming days are likely to be filled with endless political wheeler dealing as parliamentary parties jostle for position ahead of the June 7 plenum vote. The arrival of three new parliamentary parties – ADIK, New Horizons and the Greens – is likely to add a new element to the mix.