Interview with Giorgos Koukoumas, AKEL C.C. Spokesperson and member of the Central Committee
Sunday 22 May 2022, “Haravgi” newspaper
The option before us is: change or a third DISY term, with one or the other DISY candidate
QUESTION: So far, the big parties have not managed to forge cooperations with other parties. Do you consider this to be a negative fact in relation to the goals you set for the presidential election?
GK: AKEL’s hand is and will remain extended to the people of the centre and centre-left for cooperation, with the goal of ridding the country of the DISY government and for achieving progressive change. We continue to seek cooperation with the parties of the opposition.
It is for this reason that AKEL has proposed from the outset and puts forward the choice of an independent candidate because, we believe, this is the best way to achieve the rallying of forces from the opposition and society in general.
But in any case, one of the questions raised by the upcoming 2023 presidential election, which must be answered by the opposition parties and every citizen of the country is the following: a third term of the DISY party, with one or the other DISY candidate, or a progressive change? A change that will put forward a social programme that responds to the needs of working people, the young generation, small businessmen, farmers and all those affected by the price increases, the high cost of living, the inequalities, the aggressive actions of the banks and powerful private interests.
QUESTION: The Cyprus problem is at a complete standstill, with the Turkish and Turkish Cypriot sides accepting only the two-state solution. Can this objective of theirs be undone or reversed?
GK: The demand pot forward by Ankara and Tatar’s can be nullified when what AKEL has been calling for five years happens: namely, the resumption of the talks on the agreed basis and framework from the point where they had remained in 2017, preserving all the convergences that have been achieved so far. So long as negotiations do not resume on this basis, Turkey will deepen and consolidate its occupation and division. In addition, the more the more this situation continues the more various dangerous ideas will be “peddled” by third parties among the international community so we can supposedly… cover the distance between federation and a two state solution, as were the British ideas that had been presented in the past.
This is precisely why the country needs a new President who is sincere and consistent to the goal of the resumption of the negotiations for a solution to the Cyprus problem based on principles and at the same time to take concrete initiatives towards this goal, such as those included in the proposal submitted by AKEL two and a half years ago.
QUESTION: The European Commission stresses that the solution to inflation is the Cost of Living Allowance (COLA) and wage increases. Is this feasible in Cyprus?
GK: It is both possible and necessary. It is first of all socially just to protect and increase working people’s income, but in the current circumstances it is also economically necessary. If the income of working people, pensioners and households is not protected, how exactly will there be domestic consumption, which has proved crucial in dealing with the pandemic’s economic consequences? If the purchasing power of wages continues to be nibbled away, does anyone think that the economy will remain unaffected?
Of course, together with the protection of wages, specific measures are needed to curb price increases/hikes such as the reduction of VAT on electricity and basic goods, the abolition of double taxation and the imposition of a cap on fuel. AKEL has submitted legislative proposals to Parliament and we are waiting for the position of the other opposition parties on them.
Mr. Anastasiades’ recent admission that “thank God for the COLA” has not gone unnoticed. However, COLA exists in Cyprus because the plans of Mr. Anastasiades’ own class and party did not succeed. The COLA exists because in previous decades it was won by the struggles waged by the working people – organised, fierce and collective struggles – which the Right has been hostile and ironic to over time. COLA exists because in 2012 its complete abolition was prevented, as demanded by the Troika together with the employers’ associations and the DISY leadership.
Right now the question that the government, DISY party and everyone is called upon to answer is the following: Should the COLA be fully restored and cover every working person in the country, as demanded by AKEL and the trade union movement, or not?