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.