Sunday, 17 February 2008

Papadopoulos loses, prepare for Christofias

The joke in Cyprus is that Cypriots are incorrigibly conservative and that, in particular, there are three things they will never change:
1. Their kafenion (coffee shop);
2. Their wives; and
3. The political party they vote for.

And so, in today’s first round in the presidential elections on the island, it seems what made up voters' minds was not the Cyprus question or the state of the economy, but traditional loyalty to party – κομματικός πατριωτισμός/party patriotism.

Thus President Tassos Papadopoulos has failed to make it through to the second round, victim of the ability of the two largest parties on the island, right-wing DISY and communist AKEL, to mobilise their supporters and leave the parties supporting Papadopoulos – principally, centrist DIKO and socialist EDEK – not enough room to attract the waverers needed to prevent Papadopoulos being embarrassingly eliminated.

In the end, Ioannis Cassoulides, the DISY candidate, won the first round with 33.5% of the votes, AKEL’s Dimitris Christofias (pictured) obtained 33% and Papadopoulos 32%.

It now remains to be seen which candidate DIKO and EDEK will support in the second round. Socialist EDEK, which usually has the support of between 7-10% of the electorate, can be expected to support Christofias, while DIKO, commanding the loyalty of between 18-20% of Cypriots, is more doubtful; but in the end I expect the party leadership will come out in favour of Christofias too, which will ensure that next Sunday Cyprus will elect a communist president.

5 comments:

Hermes said...

What do you think this will mean for the Cyprus question?

john akritas said...

It's pretty clear that there's going to be another UN negotiation effort later this year and that yesterday's defeat of Papadopoulos will be seen as indicating Greek Cypriot flexibility – even if like I said in my post, the result should not be taken as a judgement on Papadopoulos and his policies on the national issue, but a reflection of kommatikos patriotismos – in which case our perceived 'vote for change' will put Turkey on the spot and we'll get to see how prepared it is to negotiate a solution to end the occupation.

Since partition and two independent states on the island is the preferred Turkish option and since Erdogan is unlikely to want to open another front with the military – Cyprus is their fiefdom – I doubt very much if Turkey is willing to make those concessions which would make a solution acceptable either to Christofias or Cassoulides; but at least it won't be our side that will be blamed for the impasse and it will be Turkey and not our side that will be subject to pressure and criticism.

It's a shame about Papadopoulos – I would have voted for him, though I'm not desperately disappointed he lost; but he failed to take care of the coalition building necessary to get re-elected, especially when you consider that his party – DIKO – is traditionally the third party in Cypriot politics. He did his job though: he had the balls to reject Annan and managed to prevent the worst-case scenarios predicted for Cyprus after the No vote. We move on. Neither Christofias or Cassoulides are fools.

Hermes said...

This is somewhat reassuring.

Theophilos said...

John,

Apo to stoma sou kai stou Theou to afti.

john akritas said...

Indeed, Theophilé.

I have to admit that I've been smiling at all the international press and foreign commentators who've been suggesting that the vote was a 'vote for change'. It was nothing of the sort, in my opinion. The change would have been if Papadopoulos had managed to persuade enough traditional DISY and AKEL supporters to vote for him. Anyway, the effect has been to convince 'international commentators' that Greek Cypriots want a solution – as if we didn't want a solution all along – and to take away one of the Turkish trump cards, which was that Papadopoulos – and by extension the Greek Cypriots – were intransigent. This is a good thing.

As for the second round, it now seems possible that the forces of the centre and the right will unite, i.e. DIKO will back Cassoulides and not Christofias. DIKO people feel Christofias betrayed Papadopoulos by breaking up the AKEL/DIKO coalition last summer; don't like the communists euroskepticism or ideas on dehellenising Cypriot education or shifting towards a more socialist socio-economic model, etc. DIKO and DISY also both have roots in EOKA, whereas you'll never see a Greek flag at an AKEL rally.