| POLITICS |Politis



The confrontation that broke out in the last few weeks between [DIKO leader] Nikolas Papadopoulos and [ELAM leader Christos] Christou, against the backdrop of the contest for third place in the European elections, did not just confirm the rapid rise of ELAM, as recorded in the polls anyway. It was also a direct admission on DIKO’s part of the political affinity between the two parties. That, in essence, DIKO and the far right are competing for a piece of the same pie. It is in this context that Nikolas Papadopoulos, first, brought up ELAM’s proposal to grant passports to migrants – to illustrate that the Far Right party has no serious proposal on migration. Then, he highlighted ELAM’s past, operating outside the political institutions, to allude to a party situated outside the democratic framework; indicating that it should concern us that wherever we see ELAM, we see people in masks and hoods. But how did DIKO come to be the main pool of potential voters for the Far Right?

Previously, the whole discussion had focused on DISY and the possibility of serious outflows to ELAM. The joining of [DISY] members to the Far Right party contributed to this, but so did the long-standing existence of a group within the party which many times in the past acted as the mouthpiece for far-right positions. Few people, including members of the so-called Centre parties, showed any concern about the fact that the way in which these parties were operating – in terms of rhetoric, highlighting issues and actual policy proposals – brought them into direct competition with the Far Right party. While DISY differentiated itself at least in terms of rhetoric on the Cyprus issue, and maintained – under Annita Demetriou – a milder discourse on the migration issue, DIKO (like EDEK) hardly managed to differentiate itself from ELAM, making itself vulnerable to far right rhetoric and propaganda. The longer it did not differentiate itself from far right rhetoric, the more pressure it came under, and the more pressure it came under, the closer it got to ELAM, making itself a representative of their positions.

The problem is that, unlike EDEK five years ago, DIKO seems to have run out of a political narrative. It cannot play the card that EDEK played, claiming that a vote for it will keep ELAM out of the European Parliament (since according to polls ELAM seems to have secured a seat and a vote for DIKO cannot overturn this reality). And the way EDEK has operated in the interim period has nullified the voters’ dilemma between the Centre or the Far Right. At the same time, the slogan “Avoid adventures” [Editor’s note: reference to a political advertisement by DIKO] cannot be convincing either, since, as a basic cog in this government, it has shown serious deficiencies and pathogenies but also, the cohesion it represents is there for all to see. With half its parliamentary group in the coalition and the other half in opposition (not only to the government but also to the party itself). In other words, there is no dilemma to put forward that highlights a clear stake.

But more importantly, there are no clear dividing lines anymore either. DIKO’s recent actions, adopting extreme positions and participating with ELAM in protest marches outside the Greek embassy over bicommunal events – beyond their banality – have consolidated the image within society that these parties share the same space on the political spectrum. It has made negativity and conservatism its dominant political narrative. It led with extreme rhetoric on migration, leading the government to also harden its stance so as to help [DIKO] in the [European] election campaign. It threatened to not attend the President’s state of the union address as a result of the measures announced by the President for the T/Cs. With every statement or move it made, it tried not to upset the conservative audience. After all, it was the only party that refused to answer the “Kathimerini” questionnaire on state-Church relations. On the big issues, such as the Cyprus problem and acceptance of the Guterres Framework, it wholeheartedly aligned itself with ELAM.

The attempt to highlight what separates the two parties by employing shallow arguments/slogans such as the unprecedented, banal invocation of the party’s support for Makarios (as opposed to ELAM’s identification with Grivas), or with the slogan “With you at the epiCENTRE”, placing emphasis on the Centre to highlight its distance from the Far Right, is indicative of the difficulty it has to differentiate itself at the political level. The stakes between DIKO and the Far Right, if they exist, are not that high.

Throughout this period, we have not only witnessed the rise of ELAM. We have also watched multiple ELAMs emerging mainly from the Centre. With the same rhetoric, the same concerns, the same banality. In their attempt to either stop the outflow [of voters] or to attract new votes, or because they are full of members deemed as potential transfers to ELAM, they have chosen to approach and very often adopt extremist discourse. They often put forward the same policies as solutions, turning ELAM’s politics into mainstream politics. To such an extent, that the dividing lines become indistinguishable beyond a certain point. This is the high price DIKO is paying today. This is the high price the political system is paying. DIKO’s support for Makarios 70 years ago is as irrelevant today as are the stakes put forward by DIKO [in the election campaign]. This inability to differentiate from the Far Right, however, does not only concern DIKO. It concerns the entire political system. Above all, however, it concerns society. 


Antonis Polydorou studied Political Sciences and Sociology at the University of Essex and completed his Master’s degree in Economics at the University of Bath. He has contributed in a number of studies as an associate with the Université Libre de Bruxelles (ULB) and the European Institute of Cyprus, mainly on European Union foreign policy and security issues and the rise of the far-right movement in Europe. For the past 10 years he has been a columnist at the newspaper Politis.

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