Nicosia.- (GreekNewsOnline, CNA)
Former President of the Republic of Cyprus Demetris Christofias passed away on Friday at the age of 72. The announcement was made by his doctor, Michail Minas, who said Demetris Christofias, who had been hospitalised for weeks, died at 05:36pm local time at the Nicosia General Hospital. He had developed severe pneumological complications, which worsened over the past few days.
President of the Republic Nicos Anastasiades has expressed his deepest condolences to Demetris Christofias’ family, noting that he heard the news of his death with great sorrow.
“A politician with whom for years we followed parallel paths, but always for the good of the country.”
A presidency statement said Anastasiades has convened a cabinet meeting on Saturday to make decisions about the funeral.
Demetris Christofias was the sixth President of the Republic of Cyprus. He was elected President on 24 February 2008, and assumed his duties on 28 February 2008. He held the office until 28 February 2013.
At the time of his election he was serving his second term as President of the House of Representatives. Demetris Christofias was born in Dikomo in the Kyrenia District on 29 August 1946. The son of a builder and one of five children, he studied in Soviet Union and in 1976 he became the Secretary General of the Communist Youth (EDON). In 1988 he became AKEL’s youngest-ever secretary-general at the age of 41.
Christofias underwent a lifesaving kidney transplant in 1999, in which the donor was his sister. He also had open-heart surgery earlier in that same year.
He is survived by his wife, Elizabeth (Elsie) Chiratou, two daughters and a son, and grandchildren.
Condolences to Christofias’ family poured in from Greek Cypriot political leaders as well as the Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci, who expressed his profound sadness over the death of the former president. Akinci extended his sincere condolences to the family, Akel, and the Greek Cypriot community.
Akel expressed condolences to the late president’s family. The party said the details of his funeral will be decided with the family.
The President and the Prime Minister of Greece, the President of the Greek Parliament, opposition leaders Kyriakos Mitsotakis, former Prime Minister George Papandreou, the Communist Party and SYRIZA also send condolences.
Christofias was the only Cypriot president not to seek re-election, citing his failure to achieve his “lifes vision” of reunifying the country that had been split since Turkey invaded in 1974 following a coup by supporters of union with Greece.
After his March 2008 rise to power, Christofias was hailed as the leader with the best chance to achieve a peace breakthrough that had eluded his predecessors, thanks to long-standing ties with the Turkish Cypriot left-wing trade union movement.
But all the optimism faded as talks with two Turkish Cypriot leaders dragged on over five years without tangible results. Some faulted Christofias for allowing momentum to drain from the process.
“I will leave truly miserable, because what I had promised can’t happen given Turkey’s intransigence, so from here on in, Ill suffer along with you as a common citizen,” he had told municipal officials shortly before leaving office in 2013.
Christofias’ “man-of-the-people” persona, which he often played up to underscore his working-class roots, endeared him to many.
His election offered a curious paradox of Cypriot politics — an avowed communist in charge of a country with a free-market economy that boasted membership in the European Union, which Christofias’ party had once denounced as being in league with the “imperialist” NATO alliance.
But as his presidency wore on and the economy began to tank, many came to view him as ill-equipped to govern, especially in matters of the economy.
The turning point in Christofias’ presidency came on July 11, 2011, when a 400-ton stash of seized Iranian munitions spontaneously combusted at a naval base where it had been stored, exposed to the elements, for nearly two years. The blast killed 13 people, wrecked the island’s main power station and sparked weeks of protests calling for Christofias’ resignation over his administration’s perceived ineptitude.
An ensuing inquiry into the blast found Christofias personally responsible for the disaster, something that he vehemently rejected, insisting that subordinates misled him and that a separate police report vindicated him.
“Im easy with my conscience,” he said in a 2012 interview, insisting that he was the target of a “war of extermination” by his political opponents.
The disaster exacerbated an acute banking crisis that had locked Christofias into an acrimonious feud with former Central Bank Governor Athanasios Orphanides over who was to blame for it.
Another inquiry held Christofias primarily responsible for bringing the country to near-bankruptcy because he pursued “reckless” economic policies, ignored warnings over spending and worsened problems by delaying talks on an international bailout.
Christofias argued the inquiry was “illegal” and the report “fraught with untruths and slander” that offered cover to the banks, who he claimed were the real culprits.