Challenger ahead in Cyprus poll

Tassos Papadopoulos, a challenger to incumbent Cypriot President Glafcos Clerides, retains a considerable, but not insurmountable, lead in a telephone poll published on Saturday, two weeks before the February 16 election. Of the 462 respondents, 38 percent said they would vote for Papadopoulos in the first round, 24.4 percent for Clerides, 7 percent for Attorney General Alecos Markides, a dissident from Clerides’s party, and 2 percent for extreme nationalist Nikos Koutsou; 15.3 percent declared themselves undecided and 5.3 percent did not answer. In the second round, Papadopoulos leads Clerides 45.3 percent to 37.4 percent. The pollsters, Nielsen Amer, said that, accounting for the undecideds, this gives 54.7 percent to Papadopoulos. Clerides, 83, who is completing his second five-year term, is seeking a reduced, 16-month term, to negotiate a deal for the reunification of the island. He has sought to portray Papadopoulos, 70, as a dangerous hardliner. Papadopoulos has been critical of UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s peace plan.