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Saturday, 18 December 2010


The nationalist movement ELAM (National People’s Front) is seeking to establish itself as a political party with a view to running in elections – perhaps even the coming parliamentary elections next May. As reported by Politis yesterday, ELAM has filed an application with the Interior Ministry so that its property and assets are deemed tax-free – an exemption which political parties are entitled to. The application was filed in late November. Lazaros Savvides, permanent secretary of the Interior Ministry, said a decision on the application should be made by next week. “If it satisfies all the criteria, there is no reason why it should not be accepted,” Savvides told the Mail. The above application is a formality and is separate from registering as a political party, for which other requirements apply – such as having an office in all the major towns or conducting operations in the various districts. The application was filed on ELAM’s behalf by European Party MP Rikkos Erotokritou in his capacity as a lawyer.

Politis yesterday attributed to Erotokritou suspicious motives, and in a double-entendre wondered how a member of one party could be promoting the establishment of a potentially rival political grouping. Later yesterday, the deputy released a statement through his law firm, stating he had no political relation whatsoever to ELAM and that his involvement in no way indicated that he shared the group’s views. Hitting back, he claimed the paper was distorting facts and urged the publication to set the record straight. Erotokritou attached to the statement a copy of an agreement with the Kurdistan Limassol District Office. The MP said his business association with Kurdish immigrants was proof enough that he did not see eye to eye with ELAM. Regardless of whether the application is approved or not, ELAM can still declare itself a party and run as such in elections – which is precisely what the movement plans to do. “We aim to run as a party in the upcoming parliamentary elections,” said Michalis Drakos, a member of ELAM’s Central Committee.

To win a seat in parliament, a candidate must garner 1/56 – or around 1.8 per cent – of the popular vote. ELAM actually ran in the last European elections, winning 663 votes, or 0.22 per cent. The self-professed nationalists, whose members don black T-shirts in demonstrations, deny they are a racist or chauvinist movement. They say they are against illegal immigrants, including asylum seekers living here on benefits paid for by taxpayers – but insist they have nothing against legal aliens. Besides advocating a ‘Greek Cyprus’, the outfit wants all illegal immigrants (“many of whom pose as asylum seekers”) on the island to be summarily deported. “Yes, we are worried about the demographics of our country. Today, there are currently some 200,000 foreigners living here,” Drakos said, temporarily blurring the distinction between legally and illegally residing foreigners. “We have nothing against people who reside here legally. They will stay here, and when their residency expires, they will be on their way back to their countries,” he noted.

ELAM are against a federation-based solution to the Cyprus problem, and want the crossing points with the north shut. Their bid to break into the mainstream of politics is linked to a desire to shed their image as a fringe extremist outfit. “We are here to stay…not just to emerge whenever there are elections,” said Drakos, explaining ELAM’s intended transformation into a fully-fledged party. “Our goal is to acquire a political role, and to provide a platform to people who disagree with conventional ideas – such as a federal solution for Cyprus – but who have nowhere to turn to now. “We want to be taken seriously,” added Drakos. Established in July 2008, the group currently counts some 800 registered members, and has offices in all the major towns, as well as an associated student organisation in Athens. In the municipal elections in Greece last November, the ultra-nationalist Greek group known as ‘Chrysi Avgi’ got a member elected to the Athens municipality.

According to the charter of ‘Chrysi Avgi’, “only Aryans by blood and Greeks by descent can be candidate members.” The charter also puts the leader in total control of the party, and formalises the use of the Roman salute for party members. Their emblem’s colour and design is eerily reminiscent of the Nazi swastika. ELAM member Petros Georgiou said their outfit has “friendly relations” with a number of nationalist parties in other countries, including ‘Chrysi Avgi’ in Greece and Italy’s Forza Nuova, as well as similar groups in Germany and Russia. Most of their members come from low-income groups, but ELAM’s ranks include people from all walks of life, including doctors and lawyers. And funding comes “from our own pockets,” Georgiou said.

Cyprus Mail