DIKO is in an awkward position. Papadopoulos threatened president Anastasiades that if he did not withdraw the document he suggested as a joint-statement, he would leave the government. Today, Eroğlu, the leader of the Turkish Cypriots, agreed on the joint-declaration. What will DIKO do?
It is important to remember that Nicolas Papadopoulos is the new president of DIKO and that on Sunday the electoral conference of DIKO will take place, where Papadopoulos aims to establish his dominance in the central committee. Nicolas represents the more hardcore members of DIKO and his hostility towards the joint declaration aims to satisfy those hardliners.
At the same time, Yiorgos Lillikas, a populist nationalist politician who received 24% of the votes in the previous presidential elections with the support of the social democrats, is a real threat to the role of DIKO as the regulatory party—the party whose vote is required for a president to get elected.
Nicolas is in an awkward position. He and his party will be called to support the government in parliament, irrespective of whether they are in government or not. Troika’s conditionality (e.g. privatisations) involves reforms that can only be implemented with new bills or with amendments to previous ones. Without DIKO the government cannot fulfil its obligations to its international lenders.
On the other hand, if DIKO does not support the government in the parliament, it will bear the main share of responsibility for the inevitable default of the economy, since Cyprus will be (officially) bankrupt without the money that it receives from the troika.
The question therefore is how far is Nicolas willing to take it?
Possibility 1: Will he leave government and still support the government in parliament? This is incompatible with DIKO’s history, where the party always tries to be in power for self-serving reasons. Papadopoulos has nothing to gain from this. He will be giving power away whilst looking weak. After all, he will still be supporting president Anastasiades in parliament.
Possibility 2: Will he both leave the government and oppose it in parliament? This will attract many of the voters that would otherwise vote for Yiorgos Lillikas and for EDEK, yet it comes at a high price: his party will be responsible for Cyprus’ default. I doubt that he will be willing to take it that far. It goes against his personal interests (offspring of one of the richest families in Cyprus) and against the interests of his party (mostly middle-class voters).
Possibility 3: Will he stay in government and boycott it from the inside, like he did in the previous government? This is likely for two reasons.
- Possible reason 1: Papadopoulos calculated the days wrong, hoping that Eroglu would take time to respond to Anastasiades’ invitation for the joint-statement. Papadopoulos raised his rhetoric in anticipation of the electoral conference of his party (Sunday), aiming to sweet-talk the hardliners by showing them that he is taking a strong stance on the Cyprus problem. After the conference he would lower the tones. Unfortunately for him, Eroğlu responded on Friday afternoon, leaving him exposed by a day and a half.
- Possible reason 2: The solution that Anastasiades is negotiating has the support of OEV (employers and industrialists), which means that it will be economically beneficial to the class that Papadopoulos comes from—thus, he might be in favour of a solution (for once) and his reaction might be just noise for internal consumption, publicly attacking but privately endorsing Anastasiades.
One further complication needs to be taken into account. Even if Nicolas wants to support the government in the bills required by the troika, it is not necessarily to the best interests of DIKO to do so. The party has always dependent on being able to stay in government (as the regulator) and to appoint its voters in governmental and semi-governmental organisations. If these organisations are privatised, then the party will lose its ability to maintain the system of clientelism upon which it bases its political existence—there will be less jobs for DIKO to give away to its supporters. The question then is whether Papadopoulos will follow the interests of his party, the interests of his class (he comes from an aristocratic family), or the interests of Cyprus as they are perceived by the ruling DISY.
Based on the above conundrum (whose interests will he serve), one further possibility (4) is that Papadopoulos is using the Cyprus problem as a way out of the government in order to have more leeway to challenge the bills for the privatisations. This is an unlike scenario. He has traditionally been on the other side of the fence.