It's been a confusing and exhausting couple of days in Cypriot politics, dominated by centrist DIKO's tortuous efforts to decide which candidate to support in Sunday's second round of presidential elections after their man, the incumbent Tassos Papadopoulos, was eliminated in the first round.
Having forced both remaining candidates – communist Dimitris Christofias and conservative Ioannis Cassoulides – to present in writing their positions on the national issue – Cassoulides' dissertation went to five pages, Christofias managed only two – and tried to squeeze out of the hopefuls as many ministries for DIKO as possible, the initial news was that DIKO's secretariat, comprising seven senior members, had overwhelmingly decided to recommend to the party's executive committee that DIKO should support the conservative candidate Ioannis Cassoulides.
However, at a subsequent marathon session of DIKO's executive committee, which ran till one this morning, 112 members of the committee voted to recommend to party supporters that they should back AKEL’s Christofias, while only 50 were in favour of DISY's Cassoulides.
It seems Papadopoulos' preference for his erstwhile ally, Christofias; Christofias' assurances on the Cyprus question; his promise to DIKO that it would get the speakership of parliament, the foreign ministry and that he would appoint a neutral, non-AKEL finance minister; and his pledge that he would stand down after one term and support a DIKO candidate in five years time, won over the majority who sit on DIKO’s supreme decision-making body.
This isn't the end of the matter, of course, and Christofias is by no means guaranteed the presidency, though it certainly makes him favourite. DIKO has clearly been split over who to back and there are obviously a lot of DIKO people who will find it hard to stomach voting for Christofias, not just because he is a communist but also because they blame him for breaking up last summer the AKEL/DIKO coalition government, which it now transpires precipitated Papadopoulos' downfall.
But will this anti-Christofias tendency in DIKO translate into support for Cassoulides, who backed the detested Annan plan, and whose DISY party spent the last five years bitterly opposing Papadopoulos and undermining his presidency at every turn? Unlikely, but not impossible. In 1993, enough DIKO people – disciplined, but not as disciplined as AKEL and DISY people – defied party instructions to vote for Giorgos Vassiliou to ensure DISY’s candidate, Glafkos Clerides, was narrowly elected – though Clerides did have the support of socialist EDEK, which Cassoulides will not have this time round.
However, I expect enough DIKO supporters will not put at risk the deal that has been struck with AKEL and will overcome their doubts and nausea and vote for Christofias, thus ensuring that the Soviet-educated refugee from Kyrenia will be Cyprus' next president.