Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category


Legal to vote

December 14, 2011

Village elections are taking place this month and in a village of little more than 100 adults our two votes could be important. Or so claimed the mukhtar of the village some months ago when he asked if we were registered to vote. Ummm, no, never felt the need before, was our answer, and anyway it’s not a straightforward process for us expats. As a man seeking re-election, in turbulent village times, he offered to help. He, he said, would personally deal with all the paperwork and arrange for our voting cards to be issued.

A day or two later he appeared at the gate with a handful of forms to complete and a request to see passports and for a handful of passport-type photos. He took the forms, copies of the passports, the photos and a copy of our house purchase contract and our title deeds, and headed off to the appropriate office.

A day or two later he re-appeared. The office, he said, wants more information. Did we perhaps have our pink/yellow slips handy? We did so copied them both and handed them over.

A week later he was back again. The office wanted to see our yellow/pink forms rather than pink/yellow forms. Did we have those? We didn’t. For a moment he looked deflated. The only other thing they will accept is birth certificates and I know you won’t have those, he said. Hah! There’s a man who doesn’t know our filing system; two minutes later he had two photocopied birth certificates in his hand.

Armed with more paperwork than a competent identify fraudster reasonably needs he headed off down the hill to wherever the voting-card-office was and that was the last we saw of him for several weeks. As the election approached and he didn’t re-appear with the voting cards we decided that either he’d found the process too tiresome to continue or that he’d realised that he didn’t need our votes.

How wrong could we be? Last Sunday morning the phone rang. Were we up and dressed and decent? The mukhtar asked. If so he was outside our gate with the voting cards in hand. The question about us being up fit to receive company was reasonable: we have a reputation for being sleepyheads.

Being suitably attired, Ian headed down to meet him and collect the cards. From the look of sheer delight on the mukhtar’s face we can only assume that locals find the bureaucracy wearing at times too. And this in a week when a piece of research established that Cypriots know that getting things done depends more on who you know rather than being able to meet published criteria.

So, we’re good to vote which puts us a tiny majority compared to other expats. Very few expats go through the process of getting voting cards, though there’s only anecdotal information why. Too difficult, uninterested, too bureaucratic? Who knows.

What we now know is that, even before our voting cards were issued, we unwittingly changed the face of this village election. The mukhtar is standing unopposed: his rival decided not to run when he heard that we were going to be eligible to vote. Since we don’t even know who he is we are baffled, but then that isn’t an entirely unusual state of affairs for us in this village!



Flawed logic

December 8, 2011

Life here is rarely dull (although we do occasionally drop off the radar from time to time!) but there are times when the Cypriot logic defies belief.  This is often the case when politicians are involved.  This week has seen two glorious examples so far.

Exhibit #1

Yesterday Standard & Poors threatened to downgrade the entire Eurozone.  Cyprus is already sitting on a rating that is little above junk status.  This should be a concern and yet the president is untroubled.  It will not matter, he says, that no one reputable will lend us money; we’ll just borrow some more from the Russians!

Indebted and beholden to the Russians, again.  Fantastic gameplan.  Obviously borrowing another couple of billion euro from them is a much, much better than actually doing something about the economic crisis.

Exhibit #2

In other news drilling and exploration of the new gas field, Block 12, continues.  Some folks are excited at the prospect of the untold wealth to come; others are sanguine about anything of use being found at all.  Some have wondered just where and how the spoils, estimated at $450bn this week, might be brought ashore if anything is found.  It seems we needn’t worry on that score, there is a plan.  Sadly the plan centres on piping the oil and gas ashore next to the Vasilikon power station.

You may have heard of the power station: it made the news in the summer when 90 or so containers of munitions, stored at the main naval base and next door to the power station, exploded.  13 people, including the head of the Navy, were killed, dozens were injured and over 50% of the electricity capacity of the island was destroyed.  You’d think they could find somewhere better, wouldn’t you?

This image shows two satellite images of the Vasilikon station. The left half is before the explosion, the right is after.

For the full ‘before vs after’ image see here.


Nicosia not so keen on foreigners

May 6, 2010

So the Cyprus Mail reports.

The information apparently comes from an European survey on quality of life.

Reconstructing the data from the article the question they appear to have asked, and the results of the question are as follows:

The presence of foreigners is good for Nicosia.

Strongly agree 7%
Somewhat agree 24%
Unsure 4%
Somewhat disagree 24%
Strongly disagree 41%

That makes for fairly grim reading. It is true that the people of Nicosia have a reputation for being less friendly and welcoming that those of other Cypriot towns.

The report itself does not seem to include this data, or question, in its 98 page summary.  Anyone with an hour or two to spare can find the report here.  Skimming it briefly it seems that for most of the survey results Cyprus falls pretty much in the middle of the respondents.

Except … one table stood out where Cyprus bucks the trend, is not the norm, where the perception of Cypriots vs the perception of the world differs.

This chart plots the average life satisfaction level against the Corruption Perception Index as compiled by Transparency International.  The bottom axis shows the Corruption Perception Index which ranges from 1 for the most corrupt countries to 10 for the least corrupt.  The vertical axis shows how satisfied with life people are; the higher the number, the happier the people.

The points plotted show where each country scores on each of those two elements.  Cyprus, “CY”, is ringed in red for ease of reference.

As the chart shows there is a fairly strong correlation between perceived corruption and how happy the residents are.  Lots of corruption means less happy people such as Bulgaria, “BG” near the bottom left.  Little corruption means happier people, as seen in Sweden, “SE” near the top right.

Except in Cyprus where, despite scoring a 5 on the Corruption Index people are still happy!

It is easy to see why Cyprus scored relatively highly on the Index.  Nepotism is rife, personal ties are near-essential in getting through some bureaucracy.  In a survey of Cypriots last year a majority said that, for dealings with certain Government departments (Land Registry springs to mind) they would expect to have to call on someone they knew just to get something done.  No wonder us foreigners (sorry Nicosia!) get frustrated sometimes.

However, the results of this survey suggest that although such behaviour exists Cypriots accept it and are happy in spite of it.  If there was a single word to describe the Cypriot people then pragmatic would have to be it.


Cyprus Problem: TRNC Election

April 18, 2010

It seems that the result of the elections in the north are clear; Mehmet Talat looks sure to loose to Dervis Eroglu, the hard right-winger.

What does that mean for the island?  Well, Talat had been working hard for a solution to bring reunification.  Eroglu appears to have different priorities; a two-state country federation is his preference; no reunification at all.  One country, two passports.

The BBC says:

Mr Eroglu, a nationalist, supports a two-state solution.  Mr Talat is trailing with about 43%.  Mr Eroglu has already claimed victory, saying: “We will always work in co-operation with our motherland Turkey.”  Analysts say the result, if confirmed, could stall peace talks with the Greek Cypriots and have implications for Turkey’s hopes of joining the European Union.  Greek Cypriots, who are already members, could block Turkey’s membership bid.

Where we go from here isn’t clear.


Cyprus ex-President’s corpse found?

March 9, 2010

Almost three months ago the corpse Tassos Papadapoulos, previous President of Cyprus, was stolen from its grave.

Today there are reports that it may have been found, abandoned in a cemetery, after a tip-off to the police.  The Cyprus Mail report:

“A body was located in a cemetery in Nicosia, which, based on all indications so far, possibly belongs to former president Tassos Papadopoulos,” police spokesman Michalis Katsounotos said.  The body was discovered after a tip-off.  Katsounotos said the necessary DNA tests will be carried out to determine whether the body is Papadopoulos.

Significant effort went into the removal of the body; a granite slab, placed over the coffin, was lifted off to allow to allow access.  In the three months since the theft no one has come forward to claim responsibility for the crime, clearly there is much speculation that it was politically motivated.


Cyprus petrol strike over

February 25, 2010

As of 2pm, Cyprus time, the strike is over.

The Cyprus Weekly said:

After an appeal from Deputies at an extraordinary House Commerce Committee meeting this morning, petrol station owners, petrol companies and the Commerce Minister got together to thrash out a solution.

Speaking to reporters after the meeting, the President of the Cyprus Petrol Station Owners Association, Stephanos Stephanou, said that that the owners had realised the inconvenience to the public and decided to end their strike action.

Commerce Minister Antonis Paschalides thanked the petrol station owners and the petrol companies praising a responsible attitude on the part of petrol station owners.

The House Plenum later on Thursday was expected to discuss as a matter of importance a proposal by Edek, allowing the Minister to issue a degree capping the wholesale price of petrol.

People near petrol stations are reporting that they are now open for business and are seeing brisk trade.

So, is this over for good or is there more to come?  If a deal has been done between the petrol stations and the government then both sides are keeping quiet for now.


Paphos, Cyprus, runs out of petrol

February 25, 2010

The Cyprus petrol station strike continues.

Paphos now has no petrol, according to the the Cyprus Mail.

PAPHOS residents have become the unwitting pawns in the ongoing face-off between the Commerce Minister and petrol station owners, who have shut up shop over a freeze in petrol prices.

Many motorists are down to the last drops of fuel in their tanks, with no way of filling up.

Not a single petrol station was open in the coastal town yesterday, with locals resorting to carpooling and skipping work altogether, rather than run the risk of running out of petrol.

The town seems to be forgotten, with at least two stations open in the rest of the island’s major towns.

A police spokeswoman told the Cyprus Mail, “It’s a real problem for us – we have so many people calling us and shouting that they have no petrol, but it’s not our fault.

Neither side, the petrol station chains nor the government, show any signs of backing down yet.

The umbrella organisation for the petrol stations is now demanding that the oil companies compensate them for losses incurred during the strike.

President of POVEK’s petrol station operators’ section, Stefanos Stefanou, said his members’ main demand now is that the estimated €150,000-200,000 cost of the price-cap for the eight days covered by the order should be borne by the oil companies, whose wholesale prices to the station operators are determining the price at the pump.

Cyprus Weekly reports that government officials are meeting this morning to discuss the situation.

NICOSIA – The House Commerce committee is this morning discussing the island-wide petrol station strike.

The strike has created chaos and inconvenienced motorists, since Tuesday, following a decree by Commerce Minister Antonis Paschalides imposing a ceiling on pump prices.

A bill by Edek that would allow the Minister to issue a decree for a ceiling on wholesale prices by petrol companies will be tabled at the House.


Petrol station strike – update

February 24, 2010

Update as at Wednesday evening.

The strike has taken firm hold.  Yesterday government officials calculated that around 20% of petrol stations were still open; today there appear to be less than a handful.

There are active discussions on some of the Cyprus forums regarding which are open and have stocks.  For anyone on the island needing petrol this might be of use as the situation is changing by the hour.

The discussion on the Eastern Cyprus forum can be found here, and here on Cyprus Living.

The Cyprus Mail quote the Commerce Minister Antonis Paschalides:

Paschalides said that the government had “fulfilled its duty to the consumer” by issuing its order on Monday to cap fuel prices at 95 cents a litre for 95-octane petrol, 97 cents per litre for 98-octane petrol, and 87.5 cents per litre for low-sulphur diesel.

As consumers who are stranded in a village with no shops we’re not entirely sure how we feel about the Commerce Minister’s support at this time;-)


Cyprus petrol stations on strike

February 23, 2010

Well, that seemed to come out of nowhere!  Late Monday, having been out for most of the afternoon, we started to hear rumours that the petrol stations were planning to go on strike.

The story was quickly confirmed, with an expectation that the strike would start early Tuesday or late Monday, depending on the garage or chain.  Having already had dinner and a glass of wine when we first heard the news it was too late to head out that night to find petrol.  This morning, as rumoured,  nearly all the petrol stations on the island have closed.

It is approximately a 50 mile round trip to either Larnaca or Limassol from where we are.  Last night we calculated we had under half a tank of petrol left, perhaps enough for 125 miles or so.  So, two round trips into town, where no more petrol can be bought.  With unfortunate timing we had to make one of those two trips today for a pre-arranged meeting in Larnaca.

The background to the strike is this: apparently the government has decided that petrol prices are too high.  To resolve this they intend to impose a maximum price on petrol for 8 days.  So, for duration of the price cap the petrol stations say they will remain closed.  There’s a definite logic there, but who will blink first?

Possibly this will all be over tomorrow; it is entirely likely that the government will backtrack and renounce their proposed maximum rather than deal with an entire population which relies on its cars.

If not we’ll be housebound for a while; with enough petrol to make just one round trip we can’t risk any long drives until we know that the petrol stations are back to normal once more.

Happily we have a freezer full of food and a good supply of logs :-)


Cold, cold, cold

February 3, 2010

How, exactly, did this become a weather-obsessed blog?  There is plenty of anecdotal evidence that us Brits have a particular concern about anything weather related and it is true that the weather is a regular topic of conversation among ex-pats here in Cyprus … but how exactly did we fall into the trap of mentioning in quite so many blog posts?

Anyway, it’s cold again.  Really rather bitterly cold.  And windy; really very windy.  There was a small twister along the coast from us that resulted in a handful of people ending up in hospital.  It’s snowing at the top of Troodos as you can see from the Ski Cyprus webcam.  There has been talk that we might get snow down here near the coast.  That would be unusual, but not unheard of; 2 years when we were house-hunting we experienced a little snowstorm.  Incidentally, that isn’t the house we eventually bought; unbeknownst to us the owner of that property had already found a buyer.

In other news the UN-led talks went ahead.  About the best that can be said is that at least the two sides are still talking … and showing a remarkable determination for scoring points if they can’t actually make any real progress.

THE TURKISH Cypriot leadership set a “trap” for UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on his visit to the north in an effort to upgrade their status, which “boomeranged” on them, said government spokesman Stefanos Stefanou yesterday.

According to Stefanou, Ban had been tricked into meeting Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat at the ‘presidential palace’ in the north, despite an earlier agreement to hold the meeting at his residence next door. The move backfired as UN Special Adviser Alexander Downer was forced to issue a statement clarifying that “the Cyprus Republic is the only recognised state and that Mr Talat is nothing more than the leader of the Turkish Cypriot community,” he said.

Apart from that we continue to throw yet more logs on the fire and wonder just when it might warm up a little.  This is turning out to be a long, cold winter.