Presidential hopefuls do not see eye to eye on the economy and the Cyprus problem

With just over a month away until next year’s presidential elections, on January 28, candidates are gearing up to rally together the party faithful, supporters as well as those who have not yet decided who to vote for.

The main contenders for the top job, Nicos Anastasiades, Stavros Malas, Nicolas Papadopoulos, Yiorgos Lillikas and Christos Christou, are making extra efforts to try and persuade voters about the validity and correctness of their proposals on a number of key issues, including the Cyprus problem and the economy. CNA attempts to present a summary of these proposals, as these are outlined in their manifestos or through public announcements.

Nicos Anastasiades

Incumbent President of the Republic, Nicos Anastasiades, who pledged to run for a second and final time, reiterated many times that efforts to resume settlement talks will be made after the elections, to achieve a bizonal bicommunal federal solution, within the parameters set by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. This kind of settlement leaves no room for intervention rights or occupation troops, the President has stressed.

Following the latest failed attempt in Crans-Montana, Switzerland, in July this year, President Anastasiades said that the Greek Cypriot side remains committed to taking up the peace process from where it stopped.

His priorities relating to the economy include the continuation of reforms, restoring the confidence in the banking system and attracting investment through a series of incentives. President Anastasiades also referred recently to increasing employment and reducing unemployment to a single-digit number in 2018, for the first time since 2011.

Anastasiades’ campaign also points to the need to maintain prudent fiscal management, while focusing on low-income pensioners, vulnerable groups and all those who were affected by the 2013 financial meltdown.

Anastasiades is backed by the ruling Democratic Rally Party (DISY), which he led for a number of years.

Stavros Malas

Stavros Malas says a Cyprus settlement is the first priority in his program, which he presented on Tuesday, December 19. The presidential candidate notes that after his election, he will unequivocally accept the UN Secretary-General’s position to continue with negotiations from where they stopped and will ask the Turkish Cypriot leadership to do the same.

He is in favour of preserving existing convergences, as well as the framework proposed in the summer by UN Secretary-General Guterres. He says he will pursue a comprehensive settlement on the basis of the agreed framework for a bizonal bicommunal federation.

On the economy, Malas proposes a more balanced model for development that will ensure sustainability and will support primarily workers, as well as businesspeople. He also proposes granting incentives to high-tech companies, supporting agriculture and the manufacturing industry and promoting research, innovation and youth entrepreneurship through a national fund.

Other proposals relate to the reduction of NPLs and introducing relief measures for uninsured deposit holders who sustained losses during the 2013 financial crisis.

Malas, who is running as an independent candidate, is supported by the main opposition AKEL party.

Nicolas Papadopoulos

\Presidential candidate and President of the Democratic Party (DIKO), also in opposition, Nicolas Papadopoulos outlines his position on the Cyprus problem in a document, titled New Strategy, that was presented at the end of September. The aim of this strategy is, according to its author, to force Turkey make the necessary compromises, in order to achieve a right, functioning and viable solution.

In the document, Papadopoulos says the discussion on the name of the settlement is a pseudo-dilemma, that works to the detriment of the substance of a solution, its quality and content. The strategy aims, inter alia, to increasing political, diplomatic and financial cost for Turkey and at the same time upgrading the Republic of Cyprus.

Papadopoulos suggests the adoption of a new negotiating strategy, getting rid of previous convergences, that were reached by Presidents Anastasiades and Christofias, and staying clear from future five-party conferences.

The presidential hopeful also talks about correcting previous injustices, which the middle class sustained during the 2013 meltdown. He also pledges to reevaluate and review within his first 100 days in government all measures introduced with the fiscal adjustment program, which was agreed with the Troika of international lenders.

Papadopoulos is backed by his party, the socialist EDEK party, Alilegi party and the Environmentalists party.

Yiorgos Lillikas

The proposal for strategic planning aiming to terminate [Turkish] occupation through a Cyprus solution was prepared last May by experts, while an abbreviated version was presented last October with the title New assertive strategy, forming Yorgos Lillikas’ core of proposals concerning a Cyprus settlement.

The aim is to increase the cost for Turkey’s occupation to unsustainable levels and avert Ankara’s other strategic goals on the island, it is noted.

Lillikas’ strategy aims at terminating guarantor and intervention rights and at the withdrawal of all Turkish occupation troops from Cyprus. With regard to the type of settlement, the presidential candidate and President of Citizen’s Alliance has publicly said that this is a pointless and misleading discussion.

The candidate’s priorities on the economy focus, inter alia, on reducing unemployment, legislating a minimum wage income and linking the Guaranteed Minimum Income (GMI) to other benefits. He also says that pensions need to increase gradually, while depositors affected from the 2013 haircut should recover their losses through special taxation on banks and other means.

Lillikas is backed by his party Citizens’ Alliance.

Christos Christou

The President of ELAM and presidential candidate Christos Christou is against a federal solution in Cyprus and points out that his candidacy is the only one supporting this position. Announcements issued by the party and his campaign outline Christou’s disagreement with a bizonal bicommunal federal solution, as well as with any federal solution, proposing instead the return to a unitary state.

ELAM and Christou propose a real strategy shift in settlement talks that will highlight the international aspects of the Cyprus problem, the violation of human rights and international law, as well as Turkey’s illegal invasion and continuous occupation.

In relation to the economy, ELAM and Christou often refer to the 2013 deposit haircut and the problem with the non-performing loans (NPLs). They say that those who voted in favor of the haircut cannot be the same people to solve this problem. On NPLs, Christou says that there should be a haircut on accrued interest, in order to help borrowers meet their obligations.

Christou is backed by his party.

Cyprus has been divided since the 1974 Turkish invasion. Repeated rounds of peace talks have yet to yield results. The latest such attempt, in July this year, in Crans Montana, ended inconclusively because of the unacceptable demands put forward by Turkey and the Turkish Cypriot sides.

Source: Cyprus News Agency