Too early to speak of certain passage into the second round of the elections and favourites, says Andreas Hadjikyriacos

Press clippings

Citizens will also look at whether the candidate steps up to the job, Nicos Anastasiades’ communication consultant tells “K” in an interview, while he also considers it too early to speak of certain passage into the second round and favourites.
Interview by Marina Economidou

The citizens who are not satisfied with doing just “what the party says” will consider which candidate steps up to the job and who can better manage the two big challenges, the Cyprus problem and economy, Nicos Anastasiades’ communication consultant Andreas Hadjikyriacos tells “K” in an interview. As he points out, it is too early to speak of certain passage and notes that predictions regarding favourites, and complacency could be the main obstacle in Nicos Anastasiades’ re-election.

-In 2013, the election result was defined by anger and fear. Today?
-The fear and anger of the 2012-2013 period has lessened considerably, even though there are still specific groups of the population where there is anger and a disposition for protest or even punishment. However, the Cyprus of 2017-2018 is very different and in a much better place than the Cyprus of five years ago. The vote of a large section of voters will be defined either by the party origin of each candidate, or the party support he has. For those who the traditional criterion of “what the party says” is not enough, a second, crucial criterion, especially in presidential elections, is the personality of the candidates. The less partisan voter, consciously or not, will choose based on the answers he has for the questions: which candidate steps up to the job? Who can better manage the two major issues, the Cyprus problem and economy? Namely, who can better steer the ship, with more stability, or who makes him feel the least insecure and uncertain.

-Polls showed that 59% of respondents will vote for the “lesser evil”. Should we assume that this will boost abstention?
-I would not necessarily connect the two. Abstention is a global phenomenon, which with certain exceptions is being exacerbated, regardless of the options each electorate has. For example, the media are praising France’s Emmanuel Macron for being a new kind of political leader, and hence not as the “lesser evil”. Nonetheless, abstention in the most recent presidential elections was the highest since 1969. Therefore abstention is not necessarily connected with the candidates the voters are being called to choose from. Public opinion has adopted a pragmatic approach, which has long stopped idealising and glorifying its political leaders. It looks at them realistically, and sometimes even with cynicism. But the truth is that voters have always chosen the best from what they have; they have just stopped idealising them. And this is not a Cypriot phenomenon.

Social media networks can formulate or affect public opinion to an important degree. However, I am not yet convinced that Facebook or Twitter will affect an undecided voter more than he will be affected by his family or friends.

-The election agenda in 2013 was dominated by the economy. Today?
-The contents of the election agenda are not always in line with what is on society’s mind. For example, society is not bothered about the pre-election sniping that is going on today. The citizens are not bothered about the rows over matters of the past or issues of political prestige, but about which candidate can deal with their existing daily problems, which concern and affect them directly. For a section of the people, the Cyprus problem, the disappointment of not finding a solution, is an important criterion to either punish or reward a candidate. On the other hand, the economic crisis and its aftermath have significantly impacted on the everyday life of a large section of the citizens, therefore candidates’ positions, but even more so the certainty and security they inspire, will affect their vote.

-In this election countdown, the social media networks are prevailing and traditional means of approaching voters, such as door-to-door visits and television spots have been limited. Are they more effective?
-We all know that the internet is changing the world. What is not clear yet is in which direction. I would not underestimate the traditional door-to-door election campaign, for example. A new candidate with a warm, friendly personality has much more to gain through interpersonal contact, than through the faceless communication of the internet. On the other hand, yes, social media networks can formulate or affect public opinion to an important degree. However, I am not yet convinced that Facebook or Twitter will affect an undecided voter more than he will be affected by his family or friends during festive gatherings, which will precede the elections. We are not America, England or France. We are a small society, where even the family or social circle exerts important influence. On the other hand, we mustn’t forget that the most systematic, or even fanatic, users of social media networks are young people, who as evident from the reduced interest to register to vote, are mostly likely going to opt to abstain. Therefore I neither underestimate nor do I deify the importance of social media networks.

-Fake news played a crucial role in the American presidential elections. Has it also entered the Cypriot pre-election scene?
-It has entered, but so far with one substantial difference: the fake news in the American elections was manufactured news, which was distributed in an organised and collective way via social media to harm a specific candidate. In Cyprus we employ the term to point out an inaccuracy that has been voiced by a certain political figure, candidate’s election team or party. I hope we do not become witness to fake news of “the American way” in Cyprus.

-The polls at present are showing Nicholas Papadopoulos winning the ticket into the second round. Would such a scenario change the Cypriot political party scene?
-It is too early today to discuss either secured tickets and qualifying, or post-election changes to the political party scene. On the evening of Sunday, 28 January, we will have all the time and all the real facts to assess the findings of the polls, and then after 4 February, to estimate any possible post-election upsets.

-According to the polls, Nicos Anastasiades is the big favourite of the presidential elections. What do you believe is the biggest obstacle to his re-election?
-The previous answer applies here as well. I personally believe that such forecasts about favourites and so on are a very big obstacle. Complacency and overconfidence are the biggest threats.

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