DISY chief defends unexpected candidate withdrawals (Update: Yiannaki withdraws, then doesn’t)

Defending the unexpected withdrawal of candidates, DISY leader Averof Neophytou said there has been no violation of the party’s internal procedures, and changes in the party’s list of candidates in the upcoming legislative elections were the result of voluntary decisions by the individuals involved.

Speaking on state radio, Neophytou was responding to widespread suspicion that the withdrawal of Christos Pallis and Annita Demetriou from consideration for DISY’s ticket was the result of pressure by the party’s leadership, in favour of sitting MP Rikkos Mappourides, and Volunteerism Commissioner Yiannis Yiannaki, who replaced them.

Pallis and Demetriou had won a spot on the ticket in a special election held on Sunday, in which DISY members showed their preference to them rather than the more prominent Mappourides and Yiannaki who were left out.

But the party’s political bureau, which convened on Tuesday night to deliberate before ratifying the nominations, ended up overturning the will of the base, immediately raising suspicion that the leadership had forced the two elected nominees out.

“As stipulated by the party’s charter, the political bureau looked at a number of nominees equal to the spots available on the ticket, plus one individual in each district, so that final decisions can be made,” a statement issued by DISY on Wednesday said.

“In the Larnaca electoral district, following deliberations with the District Secretariat and the nominees, Mrs Annita Demetriou offered to facilitate proceedings, and, in order to achieve a more balanced geographical representation of the electoral district, offered to give up her spot on the ticket. As a result, Mr Yiannis Yiannaki, first runner-up in [Sunday’s] election, was included on the ticket.”

But the claim that Demetriou volunteered her spot on the ticket of her own volition came at odds with the fact that she had already kicked off her campaign in Larnaca, flooding the town with billboard ads promoting her short-lived candidacy.

The same applied to the Nicosia ticket, DISY statement said, where Pallis “offered to withdraw from the ticket”, and the spot went to runner-up Rikkos Mappourides.

Demetriou and Pallis were praised in the statement for their “willingness to contribute to the joint effort made by all DISY members”.

However, it seems that the move did not go down well with all party members.

DISY candidates Xenia Constantinou and Savia Orphanidou publicly expressed disagreement with the leadership’s decision to overrule the vote of the base.

“We don’t live in a bubble, but yesterday was an insult to democratic procedure, party members, and mainly the intelligence of the public, which is literally fed up with political manoeuvring, sprinkled with the stardust of [party] ‘unity’,” Constantinou wrote on a Facebook post.

“I respect the party’s collective decisions, but I disagree with holding elections and asking people to vote one day, only to overrule their democratic decisions the next,” Orphanidou wrote, also on Facebook.

Both are running for a seat in Nicosia – the district in which Mappourides, the sitting MP neutralised in Sunday’s elections, was brought back into contention, presumably posing a much bigger threat to their own campaigns than Pallis.

Following the uproar that ensued, by Wednesday night Yiannaki announced he was withdrawing from the running.

In a Facebook post he said “my democratic values, principles, social and political action as well as my personal conscience do not allow me to accept the decision by DISY’s political bureau,” which included him on the ticket.

His decision to try run as a deputy was due to his love for Larnaca and an attempt to better the city and well being of its citizens, he said.

Sunday’s results put him on “the honorary sixth place” however this was not sufficient enough to go on DISY’s ticket and he decided to withdraw.

“Thus I announce and share my FINAL decision to withdraw my interest in the inclusion of DISY’s ticket for the upcoming parliamentary election.”

Yiannaki assured he would continue to contribute and work hard towards improving the life of every citizen in Cyprus.

Not long afterwards the post was removed from his account – reportedly after a phone conversation with Neophytou.

The goings-on at Tuesday’s political bureau also raised a question of female participation on the ticket. According to the party’s charter, parliamentary and European election tickets must include female candidates to the tune of at least 30 per cent, provided enough women are interested in running. The minimum requirement was not met in DISY’s ticket.

“The representation of women clause is not binding,” Neophytou argued.

“But in any case, those who raise this objection need only compare DISY’s ticket with those of other parties before doing so.”