This column is written on a Friday, so at the time of writing we do not know who the new president of the Democratic Rally is.
During the short intra-party election campaign, both candidates for the leadership of the country’s largest party, Demetris Demetriou and Annita Demetriou, did not fail to mention, but on the contrary, overemphasised, their faith in the legacies of Glafcos Clerides: in patriotic realism, in his principles and philosophy, in his politics and his ideas. I do not know whether all this is clear and unambiguous to the members of the leadership of the Democratic Rally, but I reckon that things are not so clear to the people at the base of the party. Besides, that’s why we often see turbulence, air pockets, and even powerful earthquakes.
When Glafcos Clerides founded the Democratic Rally in the distant year of 1976, he succeeded in bringing together the persecuted unionist faction, the romantics raised with the slogan “It’s Greece we want, and let us eat stones”, the fascist coup plotters who gave Turkey the pretext to invade the island, along with the fanatics of realism, zealots of rapprochement, those in favour of a solution and compromise. Glafcos Clerides had invented ‘patriotic realism’, which functioned more or less like the tomb of Saint Neophytos and allowed him to contain the two currents and merge them. Undoubtedly, he succeeded. He had the charismatic leadership abilities, the particular gravitas, and the appropriate stature to be able to pull it off.
But he often did so with contradictory positions and conflicting narratives. Because it is a fact that Glafcos Clerides used to say one thing in the bourgeois salons of Nicosia and another in Mammari (regardless of the fact that nowadays bourgeois salons and Mammari have become one and the same) and his political career was not lacking in shrewd tactics, backsliding and brinkmanship. In fact, he often banked on nationalism and polarisation. After all, despite the fact he is referred to as the “patriarch of realism”, he was the man who first talked about a federation in his infamous speech at the Argo Gallery, with everyone, of DISY [Democratic Rally], raising their glass to his “timeless ideas and policies”, but when the time came, and despite the dramatic tones he adopted, the vast majority of his supporters were not convinced and turned their backs on him. He should have been more careful…
But in any case, Glafcos Clerides was a bold leader, considering the audience he was addressing and the context in which he operated. On many occasions, he assumed audacious and ground-breaking positions in relation to what his followers were inculcated to believe and what he himself had fed them on many occasions. Characteristically, I remember a passage in an interview with Phileleftheros in the summer of 1991, when he was asked about those among the ranks of DISY who disagreed with his policy on the Cyprus problem: “They believe that if they cloak themselves in blue and white and declare that they are nationalists-patriots, they will be able to create some other situation.” At the time, I had found this to be very bold, given what had prevailed to date in the nationalist clubs and given the banners under which his cadres spoke.
I was reminded of this quote the other day, when on the online wall of a supporter of one of the two candidates in yesterday’s intra-party battle in the Democratic Rally, I read: “Let’s go for a party focused on national pride, on blue ideals.” I don’t know whether nowadays, in 2023, the problem of the “great European and liberal party” is the lack of “national pride” and the absence of “blue ideals”, but the fact is that, over time and depending on the leader (and the large or small influence they had among the party’s base), the distance between the two currents has grown. And the rate of defection is now, and with each new election, greater – not excluding the recent presidential election. So, whoever turns out to be the new DISY president today, however young in age they may be, I fear they will find it very difficult to strike a balance on issues that, in reality, have or should have zero importance in a (real) “modern, democratic, European party”, as DISY would like itself to be (and which the country needs), and which at times – we should give it credit, if we want to be fair – has created the conditions, or contributed to, the country making great strides.
Source: CLERIDES’ PARTY