| Politics |Phileleftheros



We have reached the point where, barring an unexpected twist, the map of the presidential elections is spread out before us. The overall picture and some of the candidates’ positions have more or less taken shape. And yet, while talking to friends and colleagues, what becomes clear is that there is a pervasive sense that this election has a new element to it. The criteria by which citizens choose the person who will rise to the highest office have changed. I asked an expert, Charidimos Tsoukas, to comment on the matter. He is a professor of strategic management at the University of Cyprus. And indeed, right from the start, the professor took our discussion down interesting paths. 

“In modern societies we see phenomena where the voter sees the politician as a consumer product. In recent years, especially after the entrenchment of social media, we are seeing a strong shift towards sensationalism. If you are a politician today, you sell your image, an image which is largely constructed in the media and especially in social media. So the citizen becomes a recipient of the images that politicians construct and then consumes these images as a voter,” Mr. Tsoukas said. 

And this image that is crafted by politicians is “composed of some kind of public discourse, but mainly of a collection of private moments. The politician appears as a good family man, showing that he participates in the lifestyle of his fellow citizens. He is not aloof, he is accessible, he constructs his image based on what the voter wants to see.” In essence, he cultivates certain impressions that help  build as digestible a narrative as possible, a nice fairy tale.

Another element of the modern election campaign is that even when candidates present their positions, these are limited to platitudes and slogans, making sure to avoid being drawn into a meaningful dialogue. In fact, Charidimos Tsoukas was clear on this. “It is no coincidence that Christodoulides avoids debates. If you look at it in strict marketing terms, it makes sense. Debating means attrition. It means you will be asked some questions that will be difficult to answer. But that invalidates the rational functioning of politics. Politics is discourse. We need to see each other and talk to each other. I should be able to say something and you should argue back. Christodoulides is avoiding this, so what image does he project? The image that PR experts construct for him. Of the photogenic, bright, relatively young, good person.”

Personally, I find it particularly difficult to accept that we have entered an era in which political discourse lacks depth. And shouldn’t such a development, and such attitudes by candidates, affect the way in which citizens make their choice? Not necessarily, Mr. Tsoukas says. “Imagine two people having an in-depth discussion on the migration issue. It’s a difficult conversation. You have to be well-versed in the legal, economic, and the general international relations-related aspects, which the citizen is to some extent repelled by because they are tedious subjects. Thirty years ago, (Cornelius) Castoriadis referred to today’s societies as societies of insignificance, where the insignificant is elevated, and floats around in public discourse, until a new wave comes. And so, gradually, politics also becomes insignificant.”

If this is the prevailing trend, I mentioned to the professor, then this election will be particularly poor in terms of public debate. He, however, holds out hope for the contrary. “The candidates of the two major parties, Averof Neophytou and Andreas Mavroyiannis, because of the fact that they are supported by parties that have a certain backbone, are obliged to have a political discourse that is recognisable. These candidates will put forward structured arguments, but they cannot be completely indifferent to what I described before. It will also be utopian to say to a politician: you have to back up your words with pamphlets, with profound analyses and so on. It does not work like that. What I, as a rational citizen, ask of politicians is that they should use modern tools, but at the same time avoid getting trapped in the rhetoric [of these tools].These tools trap you in a superficial kind of discourse.”


After ten years with the BBC World Service in London, Lefteris Adilinis, a Greek national, moved to Cyprus in 2001, where he quickly established himself as the leading analyst on political issues in Cyprus, with unparalleled access to politicians and other policy-makers. Having worked with media organisations in Cyprus across the political spectrum, as editor-in-chief, Lefteris Adilinis has a reputation for balance and objectivity, and is frequently consulted by the diplomatic and business community. He is currently the Director of the law firm Sinka LLC, having made a career change in 2019.

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