Long live the indomitable Cypriot people
Long live Cyprus
Homeland for all its children
(Dimitris Christofias, acceptance speech, 24 February 2008)
Comrades – and I feel I must address you as comrades now that Cyprus, where I'm from, has officially gone communist – I ask you, are Cypriots sixty years behind the rest of the world or sixty years ahead of it? No way of knowing. What we do know is that yesterday General Secretary of the Progressive Party of the Working People of Cyprus (AKEL) Dimitris Christofias was comfortably elected president of the Republic of Cyprus, defeating conservative challenger Ioannis Cassoulides by 53% to 47%.
A Christofias government is not going to confiscate private property and shut down churches, since there is nothing Cypriots revere more than private property and God. Indeed, Christofias revealed last week that as well believing in Marxist-Leninism and scientific socialism, he also believes in God, observes all his religious duties as an Orthodox Christian and that his political philosophy is largely motivated by the teachings of Jesus Christ.
In fact, as Christofias himself stated again and again throughout the election campaign he was not standing on a platform to transform Cyprus into Cuba, but to save Cyprus from the Turkish occupation and avoid the island's permanent partition. He said he would be able to do this better than his rivals for the presidency because of his and AKEL's long-standing connections to the island's Turkish minority, specifically with leftist Turkish Cypriots, who now lead that community. We'll see. The argument against such an approach is that it is not the Turkish Cypriots who decide what goes on in occupied northern Cyprus but Ankara and specifically the Turkish military.
A few more points on the elections in Cyprus.
First, admittedly from my vantage point 4,000 miles away from the island in London, I thought the campaign was highly civilised, engaged people – turnout in both rounds of voting was 90% – addressed the issues and was conducted, largely, without bitterness and rancour, with passions under control. (Inevitably, one is forced to compare the standard of political logos in Cyprus with Greece and wonder why they are so different).
Second, the intervention of Archbishop Chrysostomos in the campaign, urging his flock to vote for Cassoulides and raising the spectre of an end to Cypriot Hellenism and Christianity if Christofias were elected, backfired since citizens resented the head of the Cyprus church attempting to define who is and who is not a good Greek and, indeed, who is and who is not a proper Christian. Chrysostomos' failed intervention proved the limits of church power in Cyprus and its long-term decline as a political force.
Third, how ironic that the Republic of Cyprus, which from its inception in 1960 had so many powerful and malicious enemies – the USA, the UK, Turkey, Turkish Cypriot terrorists, the Greek junta and its Greek Cypriot agents on the island – inclined to bring about the downfall of the republic and the partition of the island largely because of their fear of AKEL and the communist threat it allegedly posed and in their paranoia and malice brought so much suffering to Cypriots, now has a communist, AKEL president and that all these enemies, where they still exist, are now looking to that president to help them unravel the mess they created and reunite, in some form, the island.