And just like that, opposition parties and society as a whole have sidelined the allegations involving nine formerlyforeigners and currently compatriots who rushed to make generous contributions to the ruling party’s fund (almost 300 thousand euros in total) after receiving their passports, and have focused instead on the proposal made by Averof Neophytou at an election rally, where he called for [the introduction of] a vice president, who then became a deputy president, who the next day turned out to be a chief commissioner, or, as he said, whatever we want them to be. Besides, as he suggested, the name was not the issue. Nor was it the substance (even though he did not say so).
For practically the whole of this week, we have been watching DISY officials on several television programmes promoting a proposal the substance of which even they themselves did not seem to understand. Some spoke of a person who would be appointed by the President, some of a politician who would be elected, others highlighted the importance of constitutional reform with a view to increasing checks and others spoke of the need for someone to take on the burden of internal governance. “How many times have we heard Presidents declare that as a result of the Cyprus problem they could not be as involved in internal governance as they would like to be?” explained Charalambos Stavrides. We also saw Averof Neophytou, who managed to change his proposal three times within 36 hours by altering his original suggestion for the introduction of a vice-president into that of a chief commissioner (he also said something about a Minister of State), making an intervention in the afternoon to suggest that the issue of how internal governance can function most efficiently should be discussed, and in the evening, from OMEGA’s main newscast, asking if there is a single party or citizen who believes that the provisions of the Constitution as created in 1960 can meet the needs of 2022. “Who would disagree that there is a need for transparency, checks and balances (which were guaranteed by bicommunality [of the Constitution] and which then disappeared after the withdrawal of the T/Cs from the structures of the state)? Isn’t that what we are all demanding?” Following the four statements of his position [Neofytou’s], not a single person has understood whether the country needs a person to assist the President, or a person to control him, or a new Interior Minister.
And yet, four days later, parties, politicians, lawyers, journalists and the public in general are still seriously debating whether such a move would require the constitution to be changed, and whether it could be done or if it is unconstitutional; without anyone even questioning what would be served by this proposal. Because the President of DISY is right. Few would disagree that transparency, checks and balances are needed. But how will the introduction of the position of vice president, deputy president or chief commissioner restore the checks and balances that were lost after the departure of the T/Cs? How will a person who will assist with and oversee internal governance, as Averof explained, ensure transparency? And why can this control not be exercised by Parliament or shouldered by independent officials (by changing the methodology and quality of appointments), but can only be done by a person appointed by the President or elected as his associate?
A few days after the revelations of donations by some of those who received passports, which raised reasonable suspicions of complicity or corruption, and two weeks after the publication of the Audit Office’s report on naturalisations, the findings of which confirmed in the clearest possible way the impunity of those in power, we managed to get the whole country dealing with the constitutionality of an essentially non-existent proposal (which served no other purpose apart from re-directing the conversation). And shortly after we managed to get half the country to deal with the responsibilities of the Audit Office, after the Audit Office published its report [on the citizenship-by-investment programme], which documented a whole series of abuses. Because – as suggested by those who opened every window to allow the programme to be abused, who ignored every warning issued by Europe calling for the programme’s alteration on the grounds that they were “targeting us”, and who, after the Al Jazeera revelations, held press conferences to inform us that journalists were being incited by others – if the Auditor General had pointed out the problems underlying the programme from as early as 2016, then mistakes and abuses could have been avoided.
This leaves some to wonder whether it is the audacity of those in power or the absence of opposition from parties and society that allows them to determine the public debate with such ease. Without even having to try. Others again ask themselves why not introduce all three positions? And others wonder, how we have once again arrived at an utter mockery of political life?