Tales From The Coffeeshop

By Patroclos

Cyprus Mail, Cyprus
Oct 1 2006

YOU HAVE to be a special kind of mega-loser to snatch defeat from the
jaws of victory, the way the megalomaniac bishop of Kykkos managed to
do last Sunday. Despite having everything going for him, moneybags
Bish Nikiforos still managed to win significantly fewer votes than
the pious, floor-gazing Bish of Limassol Athanassios (42 per cent of
the vote compared to 48 per cent).

The money he spent on his election campaign and the backing he
had would have been enough to win the presidency; his election
gatherings were as glitzy as those of US presidential candidates; he
had the public support of the majority of the political leadership,
including all former presidentes (the living and the dead), the entire
intelligentsia (from award-winning poets to authors who cannot spell
their name), all the best-supported football clubs, the TV stations,
most newspapers and the communist party AKEL which had put all its
errand boys and henchmen at his disposal.

And still he could not win. How unlikable must one be when one cannot
win public affection even when one pays millions of bananas for it?

This ability to lose when you have the odds stacked in your favour was
last seen in the 2001 municipal elections, when Cyprus Goldenmouth,
despite having the support of three parties, lost the mayoral contest
to an independent candidate from nowhere by the name of Mike Zampelas.

At this point, I would like to introduce a spiritual dimension
to the issue and ask whether someone above may have had a say in
Niki’s defeat. Because when a candidate has spent so much money on
his campaign and has the fanatical support of all the plantation’s
opinion formers, media and the biggest party, only one factor could
have stopped him from winning – divine intervention.

I think it is not rash to deduce, given the facts, that the Almighty
had not maintained His customary impartiality in this election contest,
for once abandoning His legendary indifference to earthly affairs in
order to influence the outcome. As the old saying goes, if you want
to know what God thinks about money, just look at the people he gives
it to.

THE CONTEST is not over yet and it is still possible for the loser
to become the victor of these North Korea-type elections which even
our establishment’s favourite candidate, Bish of Paphos Chrysostomos,
can win despite taking a pitiful 5.1 per cent of the vote. Thanks to
the lunatic voting system, Nikiforos could still become the Church’s
head honcho.

Kykkos monastery may have to donate a bit of moollah to the
favourite charities of six to seven of the 100 electors who make
up one electoral body (he already has 45) and he may just clinch
victory. If it were that simple I would bet on him doing it, but
there is a second electoral body, made up of ex-officio clerics,
from which he would also need a majority.

This second electoral body also has a number of priests appointed
to it. Who appoints them? The caretaker of the Archbishop’s throne,
Chrys of Paphos, who also happens to be one of the candidates and
has never made a secret of his brotherly hatred of Niki’s guts.

We love to boast that our plantation is the only country in the world
in which the people elect the Archbishop, but omit to mention that
the elections are based on ancient Egyptian democratic procedures.

Our dude from Paphos, supported by five per cent of the voters,
could still become Archbishop.

Perhaps the holy fathers who drafted the Church charter did not trust
the people’s judgment very much – they were wise – and allowed some
scope for divine intervention. This must be bad news for Niki.

DIVINE intervention could very well have been prompted by Niki’s,
insanely unholy alliance with the communist party AKEL. The Lord may
have decided to punish the bishop’s ruthlessly Machiavellian ambition
that was capable of reaching a pact with a clique of devout atheists
who hate the Church, in order to become Archbishop – talk about a
pact with the devil.

As for the comrades, why on earth did they back Niki so fanatically,
putting AKEL’s entire party mechanism at his disposal, having Akelites
canvassing for him, manning his kiosks at the election centres,
bringing elderly voters to the centres and championing him in the
party mouthpiece?

We’ve said quite a few unflattering things about Niki, but nobody could
accuse him of being a socialist, let alone Stalinist – he is a true
blue capitalist, believer in private property, the amassing of wealth
and preservation of income inequality. And I doubt he promised to
distribute Church land among the poor in exchange for commie support.

What he may have done would be to donate several hundred grand to the
cash-strapped party of the people, which is perfectly legitimate in
a free society, and the comrades showed their undying gratitude by
helping his election campaign.

THE POSSIBILITY of such a deal could become a business graduate’s
thesis – the sale of political services to candidates. A political
party would provide organisational support, political backing and
the votes of its supporters to a candidate who does not have a party
mechanism behind him, for a fee, which would be determined by the
range of services offered.

It would be like those businesses that sell 10,000 addresses to
companies that want to carry out a promotional campaign via direct
mailing. Similarly, a political party could sell the votes of its
supporters to candidates, at a unit price of £50 per vote. A Stalinist
party like AKEL which exercises total control on the minds of its
supporters could easily provide such a service and charge big bucks
for it.

The problem is that a communist party like AKEL, which is committed
to high ideals and socialist principles, would never behave in such
a mercenary way. It is a shame, because it could have solved all its
financial problems if it provided such a service. Just think how much
a presidential candidate would be willing to pay for such a service.

COMMISSAR Christofias, of course, is not interested in money. His gig
is power and he decided to deliver AKEL votes to Nikiforos not for
money, but in order to show off the super-galactic power he wields,
personally, as the plantation’s kingmaker extraordinaire.

He imposed the presidente of his choice and now he was going to anoint
the Archbishop like some kind of benevolent super-ruler.

AKEL’s sheep were a mere tool for enhancing the personal power of
the Commissar with the inflated ego, who could contract them out to
whomever the self-styled power-broker chose. But this time someone
up there did not tolerate his muscle-flexing in Church matters and
encouraged the sheep to rebel, which they did, making a complete fool
of the big-headed power-broker. Divine retribution is all the more
beautiful when targeted at an atheist.

We should thank the Lord for puncturing the super-ruler myth, which
after last Sunday is in complete ruins. His one success in the role
of kingmaker – electing the Ethnarch – is the exception that proves
the rule that the Commissar’s support is the kiss of death.

Just ask George Vass, George Iacovou, Cyprus Goldemnouth and Niki, all
of whom have tragic, personal experience of the curse of Commissarial

AFTER last week’s items about the grandiose regional domination
plans of the new Laiki Bank super-boss, Andreas Vgenopoulos, our
establishment was contacted by several people who had attended the
genius financier’s briefing of financial market professionals.

The briefing took place on the same day as the press conference at
which Vgenopoulos peddled his big banking designs to us dumb-ass
hickeys. His presentation consisted of him telling his audience what
a super financier he was, how the merger he was proposing would turn
the Laiki group into a banking colossus, and that he constantly struck
mega-successful deals.

And whenever he talked about a smart deal he had signed, he would
conclude with the punch-line, "this is the story of my life". He
repeated this cliche three times, lest any of the stupid Cypriots in
his audience did not understand that he had the Midas touch in his
genes. The overriding impression was that Vgenopoulos’ ego was even
more inflated than the price of the Marfin shares he was trying to
off-load on Laiki shareholders.

KING MIDAS of Athens turned waspish whenever anyone questioned his
pronouncements. When a broker asked what method of valuation he had
used in the ranking of banks – in terms of share capital and reserves –
that he presented, Vgenopoulos snapped. "Leave the miserly approach
aside. Here they are showing you the moon and you are looking at
the finger."

When told that the valuation of the Marfin shares was too high, he
turned nasty. "You want us to absorb you at a given price? If you
don’t like it, we have other ways to buy you out and you can go home."

The simpleton Cypriots should also get it into their thick skull that
Vgenopoulos is protecting Laiki’s shareholders from takeover. The
Bank of Cyprus, instead, "is a free-for-all", he warned. "Whoever
wants can buy them," presumably because they do not have a financial
genius, like Laiki has, to protect them from corporate vultures.

THE REASON the Laiki-Marfin groups’ headquarters would be in Cyprus,
said Vgenopoulos, was because of Laiki’s 100-year tradition and
confidence in the stability of the Cyprus economy as well as its
prospects; and because of its amazing geographic position of course.

He never mentioned the main reason, he chose a provincial town like
Nicosia – in Cyprus the tax on corporate profits is a third of what
companies pay in Greece, the geographical position of which is also
a big handicap.

DIKO DEPUTY and heir to the Ethnarchic throne, Nicholas Papadopoulos
ended with egg on his face after ordering us to show some respect for
his dad who "took part in armed, national liberation struggles so that
we can all enjoy press freedom in this country." Junior was obviously
not aware that his dad was not always a big fan of press freedom.

Many years before Junior was born, journalist Antonis Farmakides,
who was critical of the Makarios government, was kidnapped by thugs
who supported the Archbishop, and held as a prisoner for several
days before being released. Our friend at Alithia, columnist Alecos
Constantinides, last week published what the minister of interior at
the time – a certain Tassos Papadopoulos – said about the Farmakides
kidnapping and it does not read as a condemnation.

"The state is entitled to expect from people who exercise the
high mission of journalism to live up to their mission and to
pursue standards of civility and dignity, behaving as responsible
and politically mature individuals. When they deviate from these
boundaries and exercise, instead of responsible and honourable
opposition, malicious and abusive attacks against their opponents,
they should bear in mind that such irresponsible journalism rouses
and stirs the feelings of individuals who shroud their opponents with
great love and respect."

In plain language, Farmakides asked for it. I am glad the Ethnarch
never shrouds his opponents with great love and respect, because this
means we can continue to practise irresponsible journalism without
the risk of being kidnapped.

WHEN DIKO deputy and former presidential spokesman Marios Karoyian
announced that he would be standing in his party’s leadership contest,
many of us progressive, liberal supporters of an open, multi-cultural
society were highly impressed. Here was an Armenian with a good chance
of becoming the leader of a political party.

Even more impressive was that he could become leader of the most
reactionary, narrow-minded, backward, hard-line nationalistic,
traditionalist, intolerant, little Cypriot party on the island. The
party of hard-line nut-cases Koulias, Pitts, Antigone and Matsakis
being led by a softly-spoken, even-tempered and moderate Armenian, was
something we had to see. DIKO had not only entered the 21st century,
but it was pointing the way to a more tolerant and inclusive society.

It did not take very long for these hopes to be shattered. A few
weeks ago, Karoyian was a guest on an Astra Radio show which was
inundated with hostile text messages about his Armenian background
saying that someone who had not done military service could not lead
the party. Marios’ critics did not even bother to conceal their racism.

Ten days ago, Politis published a letter from a DIKO member accusing
Karoyian of betraying the "Maronite element flowing in your veins".

The writer also raised the issue of military service and then told him
that the old DIKO guard would not surrender the great party of Spyros
"so easily" to an inexperienced upstart.

On Thursday, having had enough, Karoyian publicly report that he was
being the target of continuous racist attacks from within his party –
the main argument was that he could not become leader because he was
Armenian and had done no military service. The party’s deputy leader
and candidate for the leadership, Nik Cleanthous was not aware of
the whispering campaign, but condemned the racism, if it existed.

His condemnation included the following, quite brilliant confirmation
of what the anti-Armenian camp has been saying: "I do not accept and
cannot conceive that it is possible for the people of DIKO to be
influenced in their choices by racist criteria such as the ethnic
background and religion of someone or by whether he had served or
not in the National Guard." I would certainly not bet against it.

Does this mean that the open-minded DIKO members would vote for a
Turkish Cypriot as their leader as well?


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