December 01, 2006

Stravaraland Memories - Part 6

Once Clerides coined the term Banana Republic, he was a dead man walking. Perhaps he did not realize it at the time, after all the dictum that “All Political Careers End up in Failure” is too strong even for the best of politicians to avoid.

What is interesting and instructive is the method through which he would be ousted. From within his party, people like Markides felt like it was their natural birthright to succeed the leader who had been their mentor. Markides was a very able lawyer, yet his speech and thinking was severely hampered by legal terms that rendered his intelligence incomprehensible to most Greek Cypriots. Moreover, he was the main architect of the legal labyrinth that came to be known as the Annan Plan. After much wavering he run for President against his mentor, Clerides, and was supported by all the people (seemingly) disgusted with corruption and the Annan plan. The irony was that most of his supporters (Prodromos Pr, as in Monaxous Monaxous, and Rikkos, as in Rikkoudin) were vehemently opposed to the plan he was basically supporting 100%. How a candidate for Presidency could not see this simple contradiction is amazing, and illustrates that he was not a man suitable for the presidency. His eventual cited that 6% as being the first time the Establishment was challenged by an independent who managed to get such high electoral support. He was right, but the 6% was 6% too much, given the contradictions among his supporters.

From outside his party, the puzzle was beginning to be put together. The key players would be TeePee and Jimmy Christofias. Jimmy (later to be dubbed the sheftali by the Athenian Press) would end up being the key actor, and it helps to examine his thinking. He had been made Secretary General in April, 1988, after Ezekias Papaioannou (the respected leader of AKEL hailing from Kellaki, Limassol) died, right after Vassiliou was elected (February '88). It was said at the time that Ezekias got George elected and then happily joined Lenin in the red paradise. Jimmy was 42 at the time and not even a member of parliament, yet managed to become Secretary General, succeeding a person who could have been his grandfather and despite the intense competition for the top job.

Thinking about this in 2006, when The Kid has repeatedly issued pleas for room to be made for youth (with one exception), it must have been a bombshell that a 42-year old refugee from Dikomo, not part of the established AKEL leadership, managed to get the nod from the Party! Red Hats off to the New Kid on the Bloc! The event illustrates the capabilities and ambition of the young proletarian even though things would not go that well for him, at least not for another 15 years. Jimmy had single-handedly managed to get into a fight with Vassiliou by '93, then lose the elections to Clerides (AKEL's arch-enemy, according to the official party line) both in '93 and '98, and was seeing Stravaraland marching towards the EU and opening up to trade and competition throughout the '90s. The Berlin Wall came down and communism was on the defensive everywhere. Every single one of those events were considered failures for AKEL collectively, and for its leader personally (not in public of course, as AKEL policy does not allow public admission of mistakes or failures).

By 2003 Jimmy was 57 and had already exhibited certain health problems, providing further urgency to his cause. He was faced with a stark choice. Support Clerides for 18 more months (the ingenious Banana Man Plan for Saving the Banana Republic, having already spent ten years in power) and potentially unite the land (or the space as TeePee would later call it) under a bizonal, bicommunal plan, with AKEL as the main player in the politics of the entire land. This would potentially mean one more election lost though, since supporting Clerides would be interpreted by most Akelites as submission to the devil for the fourth consecutive time. Moreover this path entailed the danger that Clerides might change his mind at some point after being elected, and if no solution were found within the next 18 months - remember "o loos tou athrwpou" anyone?

Now AKEL is a team disciplined enough not to challenge the leadership but it is not clear to me whether Jimmy would be allowed to stay in power, after one more victory for Glafcos, especially with AKEL’s support. The other option was to support TeePee with a very good chance of getting him elected. TeePee had apparently changed since his youth and what the older Akelites like Dinglis and Ezekias, had written and publicly said about him. He also offered a more convincing solution for the internal troubles of the island and had lots of money to bring to the table in the pre-election campaign.

TeePee took advantage of this situation: he implicitly promised the status quo as the second best solution, with the best being carefully avoided to this day. Clerides supporters thought that this was a weakness and accused TeePee in 2003 as not being ready to accept the solution that was being planned for Stravaraland. Yet this accusation was actually the biggest present to TeePee, due to the green line running through the electorate’s head. TeePee, promising Change, was elected in the first round getting easily past the 50% mark, the first President since the first Ethnarch that had managed to achieve this feat.

originally posted by Apodimos Kypreos

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