VANISHING CYPRUS By Andreas C Chrysafis February 2011 (No15)
By Andreas C Chrysafis
February 2011 (No15)
With razor-sharp tongues, politicians are getting anxious to protect their position against the onslaught of politically aspired rivals; they are all gearing up for a battle of words to secure a parliamentary seat at the next May elections. Promises and vague policies will be offered like candy to electors attempting to sweeten their palate and pave the way into people�s conscience for their valuable vote. Of course, like elsewhere in the world, none of those hopeful candidates (or many MPs for that matter) are trained for such an important job as running the affairs of the nation.
Most candidates, chosen by their political parties are not necessary chosen because of their wisdom, but rather how well the public knows of them and how big their family connections are in the community. Self-confident, the contenders will seek out to win a parliamentary seat, crammed with “fringe” benefits so befitting with the job. For career politicians, such influential positions are manna from heaven; it provides social status, power, prominence, financial rewards and lucrative business “connections”.
Accustomed to the politicians� proverbial “gift of the gab”, voters however, are not so easily swayed; people have wised up and can see right through the applied ancient art of “persuasion by nagging” and trivial shallow words! Eight out of 10 citizens say political parties are corrupt or extremely corrupt, while the civil service and parliament are considered the next most corrupt institutions. Views on corruption trends are most negative in Europe and North America, “where 73 per cent and 67 per cent of people respectively think corruption has increased over the last three years”. (Transparency International-2010)
Well conditioned, this prattling class of party loyalists appears to be far removed from the real issues affecting the public. It�s no coincidence they have lost the respect of the electorate! Plato often stated that: “political leaders and politicians are not men of more than average moral integrity and for this, the public should not trust them too much”.
The turbulent uprisings in the Arab World signify that political parties and various forms of governments, including pseudo-democracies are failing institutions. On the positive side, citizens� direct action proves that people have finally matured to reject the idea of being used as pawns for grandiose schemes and party political gains.
With the help of mass rapid transmission such as the Internet, Twitter, Facebook and international media access, citizens are well informed and can quickly sift out what is propaganda and what is not. Consequently, they no longer can accept or tolerate injustice and rampant corruption nurtured by elected dictatorships or despots. The vociferous mobilization of entire nations spilling into the streets and demanding their rights, it�s a clear indication of peoples� frustration. They have shown the world that governments and politicians must start to listen to the people�s wishes and not to be ignored once they are voted into office.
The ongoing geopolitical changes signify that direct action, single issue voting and referendums, (peoples� veto) on important issues and constitutional changes, may soon become part of a new political movement thus strengthening the democratic process.
Due to the availability of the Internet, the introduction of electronic direct democracy (EDD) is now considered as the strongest form of direct democracy, in which people are directly involved in the legislative function. The technology exists and when fully applied, it will transform the political scene forever. Switzerland, now partially governed by direct democracy, is making a progress towards such a revolutionary process to offer its citizens a true democratic system. New Zealand (considered to be the least corrupt country) is also making moves towards electronic direct democracy and so Australia.
This pioneering EDD process will ultimately clip the wings of petty political parties and possibly eliminate the dogmatic political stranglehold parties have on citizens. It will also offer the people a true voice in the affairs of the nation, without the fear of their vote being misrepresented for party political expediency. This is a positive move for peoples� democracy.
It has been said that, “a true statesman or a politician is a person who makes his constant object to improve rather than to please an audience”. Under those terms most politicians in Cyprus will fail miserably. Timocracy* on the other hand does not exist in the real world, but groundbreaking policies can be introduced to aim for a society based on the Rule of Law. Under those terms, nobody is above or beneath the law: not the president, not the politicians not the judges or the wealthy and powerful! Each and every citizen shall then be accountable for his or her actions under the law of the land, while the Judiciary ensures Justice is applied to all equally.
Such accountability in Cyprus is alien especially on the political scene; the very reason why people do not have faith their politicians! Worse, they behave as if they are untouchables because the system protects them under a clever loophole. That loophole is none other than political immunity! To this day no government official, politician, civil servant, judge or bureaucrat has been prosecuted for abuse of office, tax evasion, corruption, questionable business deals or wrongdoing in Cyprus. With that in mind, it clearly shows that democracy under the present conditions encourages bad leadership!
Political, State or Judicial immunity can be considered as another form of social oppression; it prevents victims from taking action against the very same people controlling the country, and that cannot be right!
There is a misguided doctrine that the state cannot commit a legal wrong and is therefore immune from civil suit or criminal prosecution. Because the state commands it, it does not necessarily mean it�s right; if a wrong command is applied, then it must answer for its misdemeanor under the Rule of Law.
Immunity must protect the office politicians hold but not the politicians. If so, it will indicate that the ruling elite can do no legal wrong! Politicians would certainly behave more responsibly if they were held accountable for misuse of their official authority. The combination of immunity from prosecution for a privileged group in society and unfettered personal power undermines the Rule of Law. Worse, it encourages injustice, elected dictatorships and corruption.
There is an overwhelming public view that the government in Cyprus needs to become more transparent; eliminate corruption; apply strict term limits of power; do away with the “old-boys” mentality and favouritism; constraint the right to immunity; revise the Constitution; initiate a more transparent democratic system and re-shape the nation and its institutions to meet the demands of the day, but above all else, start to apply and uphold the principle of the Rule of Law.
Cypriots will soon be faced with a dilemma: which political party to vote in parliament that may prove less likely to cause more harm to their livelihood and the nation? Past records indicate that the choices are limited! As for the politicians, for better or worse, voters shall soon decide and seal their fate, but as for the nation, there is a long road rocky ahead before things get much better.
However, when recently the president of the Republic instead of consulting the Judiciary, so decides to exercise his right to veto indiscriminately, (last veto was used 50 years ago on a serious constitutional matter) to override a parliamentary decision primarily on party political objectives, poses serious questions. To utterly ignore parliament�s overwhelming decision, such an act is not only undemocratic but the nation is treading on muddy waters towards an elected dictatorship and certainly that cannot be good for the country or for democracy…
*A government ruled by people who love honour and are selected according to the degree of honour they hold in society.