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On a mission to serve

By Annie Charalambous

New Undersecretary to the President Vassilis Palmas knows the Presidential Palace well having also served as government spokesman under the late president Tassos Papadopoulos.

But the former high-ranking centre Diko member who broke ranks four years ago with the party’s new leadership under Nicolas Papadopoulos – Tassos’ son – has been criticised over the high-profile appointment.

And even though he feels his conscience is clear, Palmas still sent old party comrades – who now throw mud at him behind his back – a strong message.

“Each and every one should be judged by his political career and life path throughout the years. I personally have never violated my principles even though some have tried hard to taint my image,” the 53-year-old moderate told the Cyprus Weekly in his first interview since taking office.

“Everyone is entitled to his views but I would have preferred it if some were not so keen to throw punches below the belt, and if one’s political life was judged based only on political stands, personal attacks are unnecessary,” he added.

Back in 2013, Palmas backed the candidacy of then presidential hopeful Nicos Anastasiades who won while ambitious Papadopoulos had opted to back former minister George Lillikas who came third.

Lillikas, who heads the small centre Citizens Alliance Movement, and Papadopoulos soon went their separate ways with both now officially running for president in February’s elections.

Even though right-wing Disy-backed President Nicos Anastasiades has yet to announce he will seek re-election, it is widely speculated he will do so soon. Disy is the island’s largest party.

At the same time, Opposition left-wing Akel – the second largest party – have not announced their candidate yet, so the political landscape remains unclear.

Analysts believe Anastasiades will definitely be in the second round of the election but whether it will be Papadopoulos or the runner to be backed by Akel remains to be seen.

The appointment of Palmas, who is married to Papadopoulos’ first cousin Angeliki Christodoulou, was interpreted as Anastasiades’ bid to lure disenchanted Diko voters.

There is a percentage of Diko party followers who disagree with hardliner Papadopoulos’ stance and internal tactics even though it is not thought to be that big.

Nonetheless, Palmas dismisses this speculation arguing that today’s voters are unpredictable and quite disillusioned by politics and politicians to be taken for granted by anyone.

But he is bold enough to say that Diko’s role as a moderate centre party that used to join forces with either of the two big parties in the past to govern for the benefit of the country is not there anymore.

“And when I refer to Diko’s synthetic role I don’t mean cronyism and lack of meritocracy, I refer to healthy politics that took this country far ahead. Even though cases of cronyism were also recorded, it’s true.”

Palmas, whose political activism began in the 1980s with the sticking of Diko party posters on street poles, said changes are constant and part of life and so are political circumstances.

Palmas has a nine-year-old son, Charilaos, who is a keen new technology user – unlike his father who is nostalgic of the days everyone read a paper book. And not reading it on a tablet.

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