Anndros Kyprianou, General Secretary of the C.C. AKEL on the evaluation of the 2014 European elections
6th July 2014, Nicosia
The Plenum of the Central Committee of AKEL is convening today to assess the results of the European elections in May 2014 and to determine the Party’s next steps
The European elections were held in a very negative environment for our Party. The attempt that was made in recent years by almost all the political parties and a large section of the mass media created an adverse climate against AKEL. The leveling and aphoristic criticism directed against the Christofias Government and AKEL, the populism which drew on both real and non-existent weaknesses, the impact of the economic crisis, which specific circles and forces tried and succeeded to some extent to shift the blame on us exclusively and the distortions of reality itself influenced many people’s minds
Analyzing objectively and realistically the given conditions, the leadership of the Party set out its objectives for the European elections. We had stated that our main objective was the re-election of 2 MEP’s and to register an election result that would enable us to continue playing our leading role in the political affairs of the country
The battle we waged to fulfill the goals we had set out was very tough. Throughout the election campaign most of the mass media had predicted the complete collapse of AKEL. They were constantly repeating this forecast in order to undermine the morale of AKEL’s members and cadres. Their political goal was to limit AKEL’s strength to low percentages so that they would do away with AKEL once and for all. It was very important for these forces and circles to achieve the goal of marginalising AKEL through the ballot box, without AKEL having any prospects of regaining its leading role in our country’s political affairs
The result refuted their aspirations. Our Party as the main force for the promotion and solution of the Cyprus problem, as the main force of resistance to the government’s anti-social Memoranda policies, withstood all the attacks, recording a slightly higher percentage than in the presidential elections. Our Party remains a leading force thanks to our positions, correct policy, consistency in principles, proposals and initiatives; thanks to the tremendous work carried out by the cadres, members and friends of AKEL, who really fought a tough battle with few means at their disposal, but with a lot of zeal, succeeding in defying the forecasts of the polls. All this has reaffirmed the deep roots that our Party has in the hearts and minds of the people. The question is to keep these roots alive and strengthen them further by watering them through our actions, struggles and effectiveness
Analyzing objectively the conditions, the political and social climate in which the election campaign took place, the result can be considered as satisfactory. Our Party withstood the all-out attacks and emerged from the election registering a dignified percentage result. The 27% attained, in percentage terms, was slightly higher than the result achieved in the first round of the 2013 presidential election. However, under no circumstances can the fact of AKEL’s decrease in its electoral strength, in comparison to the 2009 European elections and 2011 parliamentary elections be disregarded, as well as the big loss of votes in absolute numbers.
Under no circumstances should we underestimate the fact that in both the 2013 presidential elections and 2014 European elections, we had to make a very hard effort to achieve a percentage that was the lowest recorded in our timeless presence. It took a lot of hard work to convince that we deserved this time too the support of the people who for decades always stood on the side of AKEL.
Of course our assessment of the election result must make an objective analysis. We must point out in a pragmatic way the factors that had both a negative and positive impact on our election work.
The first and biggest thorn that each one of us felt in our contacts with the people, was the dramatic deterioration of the economic situation as a result of the decisions taken by Anastasiades and the Eurogroup in March 2013. President Anastasiades says he had inherited economic devastation. This devstation was caused by Anastasiades himself when he gave in to the blackmail exerted by his European “friends”. This situation was exacerbated by the Government decisions on a host of other issues.
The social cost of these decisions are unbearable for our people. Unemployment now affects almost every single household. The same is true of the poverty levels, as a result of mass unemployment and the cuts in wages and pensions. At the same time a large section of the people is concerned about the possible loss of its primary family residence and small proffesional housing. Many workers are now being driven to medieval working conditions, while the sell-out of public wealth is taking place at humiliating prices. As a result, the vast majority of the people is expressing its frustration, anger and scorn towards the political system. This, together with the devaluation of the importance of the European elections and a number of other factors that are noted in the Political Bureau’s evaluation, led to the high abstention recorded.
The majority of the mass media cultivated and still cultivate submission and subordination to the Troika. Furthermore, they are attempting to convey the message to the people that “they are all the same”, “all the parties are to blame for the current situation.” All of these attacks have only one goal: to annihilate any prospect of resistance to the policies that sell out public wealth and abolish social and labour gains. This was a just one part of this campaign. The other was to convince everyone, and perhaps themselves as well, that Christofias and AKEL were and are to blame for everything. To fulfil this goal they launched a massive all-out attack in this direction. This attack included the distortion of what happened during the last five years, concealing the real culprits, the leveling and denigration of AKEL’s political positions and the questioning of its moral superiority. This whole attack had a very negative influence on the confidence of our Party’s cadres, members and friends, whilst it succedded in distancing a large section of our voters from us.
Life and reality itself is slowly exposing and revealing the people’s deception, the lies that were spread and the hypocritical position adopted by our political opponents, their supporters and the mass media. Life and reality itself all that Mr. Anastasiades was saying during the election campaign was just empty words and slogans. This fact led a large part of society to reflect on matters and created the pre-conditions for it to listen and hear AKEL’s views and proposals, even though it has a critical position towards us.
At the same time, our constant efforts to restore the truth about what they were accusing us of during the previous period and the highlighting of the Anastasiades-DISY government’s responsibilities for all that we are living through today, gradually began to bring results. To achieve this, even to some degree, a lot of work was done by the daily public presence of the leadership and cadres of the party and the candidate MEP’s.
A first step in the right direction was made during the election period, with the constant projection of our positions and initiatives. The daily contact of the party’s cadres with the people reinforced the belief that AKEL had to remain strong so that it could resist the onslaught of the attack launched against the popular strata.
However, it was yet again reconfirmed that without our daily contact with the people, the result would not have been the same. It is the hard work of the vibrant contact of the cadres and members of AKEL, the People’s Movement of the Left and EDON Youth Organisation with the people that determined the result. The contribution of the New Forces was also positive. However, throughout this period we heard complaints from the people; complaints that our contacts were limited to election time. No matter how unfair this complaint is, this is something we must all be very careful about, both the leadership and the grass-roots of the Party. Our contacts with the people must be constant. For this reason, we have decided and published a pamphlet which we will distribute to the people after the elections so that we can show that we are continuously on their side, ready to support them in any way.
The need for AKEL to remain strong was strengthened significantly by the fact that with regards the Cyprus problem, our Party followed and follows with characteristic consistency a responsible and patriotic stand, with a critical approach towards the government’s handling of the Cyprus issue, but at the same time without any disposition for a compromise with those who want to undermine any chance for achieving a solution.
The European elections have completed a cycle that began with the election of comrade D. Christofias to the Presidency of the Republic. This was the first election after the election of Anastasiades.
As we had pointed out before the elections too, the period of grace for the Anastasiades-DISY government is coming to an end. The same goes for the lies that are being spread. Today the slogan “the former rulers are to blame” is not so convincing any more. Our people today are confronted with numerous and critical problems that need to be addressed; the problems are not solved by shifting the blame elsewhere. That is to say, a new cycle is beginning in the political affairs of our country.
The satisfactory, under the circumstances, election result gives us the possibility to calmly and prudently analyze the given situation and elaborate a strategy that will allow us to move forward, building the perspective for our return to the forefront of our country’s political life. The question we have to answer is “what is to be done now?”
What should we do for Cyprus and its people to really have a perspective? What should we do to tackle the problems that are suffocating the working people, farmers, the middle strata, unemployed, young people, women and the popular strata? What should we do to reduce abstention, particularly among the people of the Left? It is not enough just to interpret abstention, but we must combat it in its substance. What should we do so that AKEL’s positions, messages and proposals are transmitted everywhere, given the limited coverage we receive from the majority of the mass media? What must be done to raise the participatipon of more Party cadres and members in our election work?
The 2014 European elections and their results signal, as I said before, the end of a specific period. We as a Party went thjrough an extremely difficult phase, were all of the attacks were focused solely on us. The Left was judged as guilty on a day-to-day basis on the level of ideas and policies. This attempt of course will certainly not stop here. Its goal was not just to remove D. Christofias and AKEL from power. The aim was to achieve the weakening of the Left’s ideology and the Left itself, indeed forever – the Left that constitutes the only real and powerful obstacle to the policies of austerity and our peoples subjugation.
Day by day Anastasiades’ inability to fulfill all the pledges he had made to the people is now being revealed. The authoritarianism and arrogance with which they are governing the country is also becoming apparent. The repeated outbreaks of non-transparency, cronyism and inconsistencies are shaking the conviction of even the most well-intentioned people believing that the Anastasiades government can lead Cyprus to a better future. However, under no circumstances does this mean that this alone will work in our favor. A policy that limits itself solely to exerting criticism against the Anastasiades-DISY government will not help us to reverse the climate created. What is required is a comprehensive counterproposal that will not only resist government policies, but will also build a better future for Cyprus. We need to elaborate persuasive policy proposals which will lead us to an exit from the current situation. This is how we will gain the trust of the people and our credibility again.
The slogan “you’re all the same” should be an insult. We need to convince and pursuade, not through issuing verbal declarations, but through practical actions and deeds to demonstrate that we are indeed different from others. We must convince the people with our consistency to our pro-people and patriotic positions; through our own personal and political example. We need to convince that the people can trust us to struggle for a better future; to convince that AKEL is and should remain the main focal point of resistance to the anti-social policies they are attempting to impose on our people.
Slowly but surely, we must persuade the people of our qualitative difference from the other political parties. We must confirm this on a daily basis. We need to operate as efficiently as possible; to abandon forever the processes of introvertedness and unproductive discussions. We must not allow anything and any one, especially now that developments are critical and time is precious, to undermine the unity of the Party. We should all focus together on the issues of today and tomorrow, which will determine the future of Cyprus and its people.
We must be in the political forefront of the efforts to solve the Cyprus problem; to invigorate the peace front of Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots, through the assumption of political initiatives that will remind on a daily basis the people of the need for the peaceful coexistence of our people; to stand firmly in the frontline of the struggle against the anti-social policies, contained both in the Memorandum and those policies promoted by the Anastasiades-DISY government on the pretext of the Memorandum. We must with the same vigor also resist the by now customary extortion and blackmail used whenever the Government seeks to pass its policies in Parliament. We must all realize the following: the arguments propagated that “we will not recieve the next installment” and “there is not enough time, vote it now and we will change it later” do not convince AKEL, as they do not convince no other political force that respects itself and does not operate simply as a representative of the Troika in Cyprus.
In addition, we also need to regain the trust of the people with regards our political and human ethos; to convince them that we do not exist to be served by the people, but to serve the people. We need to convince the people that we are not guided by any personal ambitions, vanity and personal gain.
There are two major axes around which we need to regroup our forces. One is the best possible organized and mass struggle of the People’s Movement of the Left against the attacks Cyprus is facing today, against privatizations, confiscations and appropriations, the abolition of social and labor rights. The other is the elaboration of policies by making full use of the advisory specialised offices/departments of the Central Committee of the Party, in all areas and fields.
To achieve this task we can and must utilize people from the spectrum of the New Forces with specialized knowledge. To do this, an overall strategic planning and effective monitoring of its implementation is required, as well as planning on a political and organizational level that will not remain either on paper or in closed rooms. We want it to become the property of Cypriot society itself. AKEL’s prestige and credibility will be restored fully in society as soon as the people confirm that we are on their side not only during elections, but with it everyday with our policies, positions and our initiatives.
The basic preconditions for fulfilling this goal is the diagnosis of the problems facing Cypriot society, its concerns, worries and aspirations. We can identify all these issues through qualitative research. A parallel and no less important process is the reconstruction of our party mechanism, looking towards the future.
We have already decided in the Political Bureau to elaborate the Party’s strategy and tactics for the next two years. The document in question should be ready by autumn to be discussed and decided by the Central Committee of the Party. Its first stage will be the Congress of AKEL, which will take place in the first half of 2015 and end in the parliamentary elections of 2016. To implement this strategy, it is important that we operate openly looking towards the people, with unity and determination.
In closing, I want to refer to an issue that was widely discussed lately and which a section of the mass media sought to render their own interpretation, namely the question of a possible cooperation between AKEL and other political forces. The first thing I want to point out is that the issue of cooperation was discussed in detail during the Programmatic Conference of the Party in February. We agreed then that the policy of alliances-cooperation has always been one of the cornerstones of AKEL’s overall strategy and tactics; that the policy of alliances is based on the common logic that when confronting far superior opponents in terms of strength, the rallying of forces is imperative. Furthermore, we had highlighted that, particularly with regards the Cyprus problem where an alliance would discuss basic principles and the framework of the solution, an agreement could be reached. The difficulties begin afterwards when the negotiation process would commence.
This is the reason why, and for many other reasons, since then we have argued that today declarations are no longer sufficient; that any alliance/cooperation should have a specific political basis and be based on as concrete as possible outline of positions; that any alliance/cooperation must be based on the consensus of the cooperating forces for the elaboration of a radical programme, given the socio-economic conditions that exist in Cyprus today.
We should therefore neither exceptany sentimentalism, behind the scenes give-and-take, nor should we deviate from our positions for the sake of any personal and party amibitions of anyone.
More specifically, on the issue of the economy, each political force has different views about the reasons that Cyprus is in the economic condition it finds itself in today. AKEL from the outset argued that apart from any possible mistakes, shortcomings or delays, this very system itself gave birth to the economic crisis, which is why the crisis shook all of Europe and the world. The bankers speculated beyond the limits of self-destruction. Some big businessmen borrowed billions without ever repaying. Others never dared to admit these truths, and were accusing Christofias and AKEL, arguing that it was the welfare state, the pensions granted to the elderly and anything other than the real culprits that was to blame for the crisis. Despite this fundamental disagreement, almost everyone agrees that Mr. Anastasiades’ allies and friends behaved in Cyprus as if our country was a neocolony, by imposing unacceptable conditions on our country and people; that there are many things that need to change in Cyprus; that there is scope for the assumption of initiatives to protect people from impoverishment and misery. Within this context, AKEL is willing to discuss and take action.
At this point, I would like to make an intermission about my meeting with the President of the Democratic Party DIKO, but also regarding the meetings that we will have with other political parties. These meetings are held with one sole objective: to explore the possibility of cooperation, both inside and outside the House of Representatives, to resist the Government’s authoritarianism and arrogance; to work together to resist the anti-social policies of the Troika and the Government of the DISY Democratic Rally party. The Government and the Democratic Rally party are alarmed by such a potential development. They mobilized themsleves to discredit our initiatives, together with the well-knowm sections of the mass media. In a desperate attempt to undermine our initiativest they are talking about a change in the positions of AKEL on the Cyprus problem, alliances/cooperation for the presidential elections and other issues.
Their efforts will fall on deaf ears if we as one voice convince about the truth. We need to have self-confidence and trust ourselves. We are aiming to forge concrete cooperation on economic issues in order to defend the people’s interests. With regards the Cyprus problem, we are guided by patriotic positions of principle that we set out in our Programming Congress. We are not discussing the issue of the Presidential elections now. When that time comes, and this will happen in three years time, we will be guided by our Congress decisions and the interests of Cyprus and our people. Whatever decisions on this issue will be taken in an extraordinary Congress that will convene especially on this matter. Consequently, the government, the Troika and their supporters should be worried. Let them reflect whether the authoritarianism and arrogance characteristic of the Government’s administration will enable them to continue uninhindered. We declare openly that they’ll find us opposing and resisting them.
However, this isn’t enough. We have said many times that we may have our own ideological starting point, our own analysis of society, the economy and other issues, but we want and can wage a dialogue. We have already discussed many issues with the New Forces and are working on ways to engage them further.
At the same time we want and can discuss mainly with the young generation issues that concern them; with young men and women who are highly politicized but not affiliated to any particular party ∙ to hear their views and ideas and take joint initiatives. We believe there is room for a dialogue, for example on issues relating to the environment, the fight against racism and neo-fascism, the separation of the church from the state, the role of the Church in society, the economy and education, the modernization of education, the democratization of the armed forces and the police, civil and social rights, gender parity, institutional measures to promote transparency, radical democratic changes in the functioning of the state and many other issues.
Now is the opportunity, not later. We can do so today, not tomorrow. We need to make use of the breathing space the results of European elections gave to us in order roll up our sleeves and work hard both in our Party and society in general.
There are many circles and forces who claim with certainty that AKEL and the Left of Cyprus will not succeed; who argue that we should take a decision, yield and lower our flag. Many others argue passionately that the existence of the Left today is an “obsession”, “dogmatism” and a “remanant of the past.” This is their biggest mistake. They have not understood that their is no turning back; that the future belongs to the Left.
For almost nine decades AKEL was and is still in the forefront of the struggle. Despite attempts made to persecute, enslave, change and silence it; despite all the threats and attacks. AKEL has withstood all of these attempts not because it has any supernatural powers, but because it has always put at the heart of its policy one criterion only: the interests of the people and Cyprus. This is the reason it waged struggles which is why it could always move forward from a “lost battle to a victorious battle.”
We now face our biggest challenge: to defend all that we have won in decades, to offer greater service to our country and people and to take AKEL and Cyprus to their rightful position!