Fourth place in presidential elections would be welcomed, ELAM candidate tells CNA in an interview [VIDEO]

The leader of the National People’s Front (ELAM) and candidate in this month’s presidential elections, Christos Christou, has said he would be pleased to see his party ranking fourth in the upcoming first round of the elections on January 28th.

In an interview with CNA, he also said people trust him and his party because Cypriots are suffering as a result of policies previous governments had adopted, noting that all the parties, including the Left, have participated in governing the country.

He considers the three main candidates as the representatives of the old political establishment and says that High Level agreements of ’77-79, which provide for a bizonal bicommunal federal solution, belong to history.

Christou refused to disclose any details about two other presidential candidates who, he says, have approached him before announcing his own candidacy to persuade him not to run in the elections. This, he explained, is because he does not want to influence voters one way or another.

Nonetheless, he said that ELAM will take a clear position in favour of one of the two candidates who will contest the election in a second round of voting, depending on the answers they will give to a questionnaire his party will send to both of them after the first round of the presidential elections.

The Republic of Cyprus, he noted, should use its hydrocarbons and energy policy to back its policy on Cyprus issue. On defence matters, he advocated a unified defence energy treaty with Greece and closer cooperation in particular with Athens, in addition to addressing themselves to the Greek expatriates to attract foreign investment to Cyprus.

Christou defended ELAM’s proposal for a unified state and a change in strategy on the Cyprus issue, saying that one should explain that the problem is one of invasion and continued occupation.

Security Council resolutions refer to the Cyprus problem as precisely that. So we are not out of the framework of international organizations with our position. Moreover, 43 years of negotiations have resulted in absolutely nothing and the Greek Cypriot side has not gained any benefits from the negotiation process all this time. So we need to review our course as political leadership and draft a new course, a new strategy on the Cyprus problem, he explained.

He believes that the UN, like any other organizations or countries, will understand the problem if it is explained correctly, namely that it is not a bi-communal difference. This, he noted, sends the wrong messages in every direction. I repeat that this deadlocked policy has not led anywhere. We are not in a better position than the one we were in back in 1977 when the first agreements on the Cyprus issue were signed, said Christou, adding that those High Level agreements were in the wrong direction. In 1977 the federation was discussed, but not in a bizonal, bi-communal form, which adopted later in the 1980s.

Today we have to realize that what was discussed back in 1977 belongs only to history, he told CNA.

According to ELAM’s candidate Greek Cypriots have the right as people and as an internationally recognized state to decide their own path for the future and not let anyone impose it on them. We will not legalize Turkey’s military invasion in any way.

Replying to questions, he also said that the Turkish occupation troops must leave Cyprus, just as the Iraqi troops did in Kuwait. Turkey is violating international law and if we manage to get more allies we will have Turkey under pressure and the current momentum in the Eastern Mediterranean, with hydrocarbon reserves, could be a time which we can turn into an advantage for us and benefit the Republic of Cyprus, Chistou stated.

Regarding the position that Turkish Cypriots will have in a unified state such as the one ELAM advocates, Christou stressed that as other minorities in European states Turkish Cypriots will have political, religious and civil rights and they will also have basic obligations. However, ELAM believes that 17% of the population cannot elect the President of the Republic. It violates the concept of democracy. If this happens, then we have moved on to a completely undemocratic solution, Christou has warned.

On the economy and the problem of non-performing loans, which weighs on the banking sector, following the 2013 financial crisis in Cyprus, Christou proposed cancellation of interest which was added on NPL all these years and on some loans, in spite of the fact that this was illegal. There is no such precedent in Europe, he pointed out.

He criticized the competent authorities at the time because they did not monitor the banks and allowed them to charge borrowers exorbitant rates, a practice which has led many people to being unable to pay back their loans.

This will be beneficial for both sides because the borrower will be able to repay the loan with a new agreement and the banks will start having income from non performing � loans, Christou added. He said that immediately after the presidential elections, houses will be repossessed by the banks at a great rate.

ELAM’s candidate said he would give incentives to people to set up business in rural areas, including tax exemption, reduction of corporate tax and tax relief. At the same time, he said, we can offer incentives to develop the primary and secondary sectors in Cyprus which in the past accounted for more than 10% of GDP and today around 3%.

On the issue of foreign investments to Cyprus, Christou believes that Cyprus needs to develop a strategy to attract foreign companies, starting with expatriates and more friendly countries to Cyprus such as Russia. He said that they can invest in various sectors like tourism, auditing and shipping.

Referring to the new heath system, Christou said that it is necessary to meet the immediate needs of state hospitals in medical and paramedical staff and equipment.

For Christos Christou natural gas and hydrocarbons in general is a huge diplomatic and economic weapon in the hands of the Cyprus Republic, so their exploitation should be done in the right way. Bilateral and tripartite agreements with various states in the region are on the right track, but Nicosia must invest in enhancing ties with Greece, reinstating the Unified Defense Doctrine and extending the Unified Energy Defense Doctrine between Greece and Cyprus, Christou said. This, he noted, will give Cyprus a greater opportunity to exploit its natural wealth.

According to Christou, his candidacy is drawing voters from all parties, including leftists, stressing that ELAM does not discriminate people based on party labels. If what we propose is embraced by any citizen, then he is welcome in our ranks, he said.

If ELAM takes fourth place in the presidential elections, this will be a good position for Christou, as he acknowledged. The best poll will be on January 28 and we will know exactly what is going on.

Asked if he would run again in a future presidential election, he replied probably.

Source: Cyprus News Agency