O Tempora o mores

O Tempora o mores


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If you asked an average European how many communist heads of state there are in Europe, most would answer correctly – one. However, if you asked who that might be, they would most certainly give a wrong (yet intuitively substantiated) answer – Lukashenko. While the Belarusian president is a dictator, the only European communist head of state is in fact Cypriot President Dimitris Christofias.
In fact, Christofias is a member of an 'elite' club of only several communist leaders in the world, next to Laos President Choummaly Sayasone, Vietnamese President Trương Tấn Sang, Cuban President Raul Castro and Kim Jong Il of North Korea.
And if the fact that a member state is run by a communist is not shocking enough, then a quick look at the political landscape of Cyprus should do the trick. As the theory teaches, Communism and Liberalism are (or at least should be) two diametrically opposed ideologies. However, the government of Christofias is hosting a member of a liberal party – the United Democrats (UD) – as a senior member of the cabinet. In addition, Christofias nominated another member of the liberal United Democrats party – Androulla Vassiliou – for the post of the Cyprus European commissioner.
In addition, the United Democrats are not even a parliamentary party, but rather a mere interest group, without any measurable support among Cypriots, but with a striking presence in the country’s executive power-base.
Newly appointed Commerce, Industry and Tourism Minister and UD Chairwoman Praxoula Antoniadou, who is often linked with the British political interests, will be in charge of the core sectors of the Cypriot economy – industry, commerce, tourism and energy.
The energy portfolio gained in significance following explorations of the Cypriot continental shelf and the exclusive economic zone in the east Mediterranean indicated that the country has access to vast reserves of natural gas. The issue also sparked controversy after Turkey announced they would militarily intervene if any exploration takes place in the area they do not recognise as a part of sovereign Cypriot territory. 
After a defeat of the ruling AKEL party at the general elections in May this year by the centre-right Democratic Rally (DISY) and a collapse of the coalition government following the departure of the Democratic Party (DIKO), Christofias reshuffled his cabinet and UD again benefited from partnership with the president. 
The United Democrats movement was founded by Cypriot former president George Vassiliou, husband of the commissioner Androulla Vassiliou. The party is a full member of the European Liberal-Democrat Party (ELDR) which, with all of its internal diversity, could hardly be seen as an association that support communist values.
So, what is the deal? Why do the ELDR and its Chairwoman Annemie Neyts-Uyttebroeck keep in its membership a political party with no public support, no democratic representation, which on top of everything participates in a government of the last European Communist leader? Could it be that a petty contribution of the United Democrats to the overall statistics of the ELDR in terms of number of Commissioners and governmental participation is enough to overlook the fact that a [nominally] liberal party participates in a Communist government? 
In the wake of the local elections in Cyprus in December, both centre-left political parties – DIKO and EDEK – announced that they would break all ties with the president and his AKEL party, leaving the 'liberals' as the only political partners of the last European communist leader.
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