December 08, 2007

Jimmy’s Check Mate

(Or, the only way for Jimmy to win the elections).

Jimmy needs to make one important move if he is to convince the middle class to vote for him. Being unable to vote for Tassos myself just because of the kind of supporters he attracts and his inability to act as a unifying force in a divided country, I have to give it to Tassos that he managed to appoint the first finance minister (perhaps since independence) that actually knows a thing or two about economics. The appointment of the central bank governor was equally impressive. Despite what AKEL tries to tell you, these appointments were arguably the best appointments in the history of the Republic, they were done meritocratically, and they were actually done so that the job could get done. And indeed it is being done (in the case of the finance minister this was with the help of the tax reform enacted by the previous government that enabled the low tax regime to attract foreign capital and, actually, some specialised/high-end labor).

Now AKEL has been making the wrong type of noises about these appointments and these people, talking about abstract ideas like “neo-liberalism” that cannot be well-defined and therefore cannot be well defended. The comrades in the party have to wake up and smell the coffee. Most people in the land, including AKEL’s supporters, are fine with the capitalist system and mentality and indeed would just like the government to be out of the way as much as possible (a neo-liberal ideal that somehow gets lost in the cheap talk). People in the land like (and have gotten used to) the low tax rates inherited from the previous government, and see (rightly) not many things actually wrong with Sarris’ economic policies.

It will not be sufficient for AKEL to not say anything about this issue because either way this issue is going to be brought to them if Jimmy makes it to the second round. Whether rightly or wrongly this is irrelevant, remember this is politics and at stake is the most powerful political position in the country for 5 years. On Monday morning after the first round and with Jimmy still in the running, there will be special ads in the papers and in the radios frightening the electorate about the coming red revolution, about the closet communists waiting to jack up both personal and corporate tax rates to fund projects of waste like they were doing in the former Soviet Union. Make no mistake about it. This will happen. The question is, how can AKEL (and Jimmy) deal with this onslaught, especially when this onslaught has an element of truth given the types of messages many AKEL supporters send out.

What is Jimmy’s check mate move? Well, find a “neo-liberal” and agree with them that they will take over the ministry of finance with the directive of doing as they see fit. Get someone (I was going to mention names but this might generate conspiracy theories) who is known to be part of the Cypriot capitalist mentality and there are no questions about his (or even better her) capitalist credentials. AND publicly announce this the week before the first round to get rid of the weapon of mass destruction accumulating in the opponents’ arsenal. This move will make sure the middle class is not swayed by arguments like "You are being sold for nothing to the communists" or "Your high standard of living will be sacrificed in a Quixotic battle to prove to the rest of the world that a communist system might work". Believe me, there is a sufficient amount of noise coming from AKEL supporters that these fears are very real. And it will cost Jimmy tremendously among the large share of the population, who for the first time in Cypriot politics, is unattached to political parties and will be the deciding factor as to who wins and who loses the coming election.


Anonymous Mariampas said...

I think that there is absolutely no reason for Jimmy to do such a thing. To continue with the chess metaphor, it would be the equivaen of setting al your pieces agaisnt your opponent's king, while forgetting that he has yet to do his castling move (ροκέ). In other words, the real problem with Jimmy's and AKEL's communism is elsewhere.

First of all, Jimmy has been absolutely clear thet there is NO WAY of implementing a socialist economy. If i remember correctly in Thursday's TV interview he did not, even for a second entertain such notion. We can assume that those who are going to be affected by the propaganda you describe, are so dogmatic and ready to believe anything against AKEL, that the move you suggest would not have any effect anyway.

One more problem is that despite (neo)liberalism being the prevalent practise or tendency in today's economy (as you say), (neo)liberalist rhetoric is far from popular in the political arena. Popular rhetoric has no trouble of condemning the ανάλγητο νεοφιλελευθερισμό and the Νέα Τάξη who threaten our brotherless (but not motherless!) nation. I think that liberal rhetoric is defenitely losing the battle, given the fact that in the filed of ideas we are usually a spectrum of the ideas in Greece.
I have the *privilege* and *joy* of knowing lots of the decent people that say that because of Jimmy's and AKEL's communism, there is no way in hell they are going to vote for them. None of them is actually bothered by the economic implications of communism (the exception being what they heard in school about κοινοκτημοσύνη). In fact, many of them do seek a certain degree of state protectionism. What actually troubles them is the specif, anti-nationalistc ideas of cypriot communism. So, if Jimmy were to do a move as the one you proscribe, it would appear as if national enemy no2(=communism) taking on board more national enemies (neoliberalism, globalization blah blah blah).

And there is one more factor to be taken into account. Jimmy would leave himslef open to charges by the other candidates of inconsistency*. Which would, of course, be -to a certain degree- true.

What, in essence i am saying is that any voter who actually believes that there is a possibility of a communist economy will not change their opinions. In fact, given their possible nationalist stance and the fact that most that despise communism do so on the stereotype of the cypriot communist ("μειοδοτικός, ανθέλληνας" κλπ κλπ), they will have one more reason not to vote for J.


* I am leaving the possibility of objections coming from AKEL since Jimmy can easily handle them in this period.

09 December, 2007 01:58  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Are we really going to elect the head of the Communist Party to be the President of this Republic?


09 December, 2007 13:51  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

1. Like many other so-called communist parties, AKEL never was, and never will be, a truly "communist" party (despite the propaganda). It was merely a mouthpiece of the Soviet Communist Party with clear objectives rooted in cold war politics.

2. Similarly, many 'right wing' parties are not "capitalist" at all. They espouse statism, protectionism of key industries and business-government cronyism which typically furthers the objectives of big business at the expense of consumers. There are few people in Cyprus who are truly "liberal" in the classic sense of the word (supporting free markets, a minimal role for the state, competition, low taxes etc)

3. The appointments of Finance Minister and Central Bank Governor were long overdue. They are both highly capable professionals and, arguably, the best qualified to have held these positions in the Republic's history.

4. AKEL's positions against the government's fiscal and monetary policies are odd (and totally baseless) but not unexpected. Note that AKEL was making noises even before they left the government, especially against the timing of entry to the Euro (which was a very odd position).

5. I originally thought that there was some 'grand plan' by AKEL to set Tassos' economic policies up for failure. By arguing (with no real arguments and with heavy usage of slogans) that these policies are 'neoliberal', I was under the impression that it would give them an excuse to find a point of opposition against Tassos, should the proverbial hit the fan. For example, if entry to the Euro did not go that well (e.g. higher than expected inflation, a backdrop of a slowing economy, rising taxes etc) then they could say "we told you so" just before the elections and get more brownie points with the less savvy voters.

6. I now tend to think that AKEL's position was mostly incompetence coupled with some political miscalculation. Hardline voters (those who will vote AKEL come hell or high water) will not matter as much - they will vote for whoever the Επαγρύπνηση tells them to. If anything, they would switch preferences on matters other than views on the 'neoliberalism' of economic policies... The swing voters in this election will generally be those who do have a view on the economy and who - by and large - would agree with modernisation of the Cyprus economy. They would agree with the broad thrust of the Tassos government's economic policies despite the mismanagement of the Cyprus problem.

7. So, why would AKEL take such a stance then? I believe it's due to lack of understanding of basic economics and general incompetence in translating economic policies into simple messages for the electorate. I also think that AKEL still lives somewhat in the past when it comes to their stance towards the electorate - their presumption is that everyone is an idiot unless proven otherwise.

8. What should AKEL do if they are really keen to win the election? My view is that they should keep the current Finance minister and Central Bank governor and should signal their intention to do so asap. This would, in one fell swoop, take a chunk of marginal voters (who hate Tassos' approach to the Cyprus problem, but who agree on the approach to the economy). It would signal AKEL's intentions of not screwing up the economy whilst trying to sort out the mess with the Cyprus Problem - it would certainly put many people's mind at ease.

9. I believe AKEL will not do this. Why not? For the same reasons why AKEL will not do a deal with DHSY: a combination of pigheadedness and incompetence. We will have to hope for a miracle to see Tassos dislodged...

09 December, 2007 21:43  
Blogger apodimos Kypreos said...

You do not need to go all the way to communism to scare the middle class. Just a hint from Lillikas that tax rates will rise from 30% personal to 40% personal in the event of Jimmy's election will be sufficient to do the job. If things are as you say, why not take some more concrete steps before the election? Actions speak louder than words.

@anonymoys (last message): I agree with your analysis. Especially, unfortunately, number 9.

10 December, 2007 11:01  

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