NEWS

Cypriots say bailout conditions haven’t made voters anti-Europe

Voters in Cyprus won’t reject Europe in this weekend’s European Union Parliament elections, even after international creditors last year forced the government to impose losses on bank deposits, Cypriot politicians and officials said.

“People aren’t convinced by politicians blaming foreigners for all the wrongdoings,” said Alexandra Attalides, a Cypriot and acting head of the European Parliament office in Nicosia. “They won’t turn their backs on Europe.”

Cyprus last year got a 10 billion-euro ($13.7 billion) lifeline from European partners and the International Monetary Fund to avoid financial collapse in return for measures including forced losses on deposits of over 100,000 euros at the country’s two largest banks and capital controls. The economy shrank 5.4 percent in 2013, according to the Cyprus Statistical Service.

“Cypriots remain strongly pro-Europe despite the clearly unjust treatment and lack of solidarity by fellow Europeans last year,” said Stelios Platis, managing director for financial services consultant MAP S.Platis and an independent candidate in the elections on the Message of Hope ticket. “The economy collapsed because of the inertia of Cyprus’s party system and its inherent corruption.”

President Nicos Anastasiades’s DISY party will place first in the elections, keeping two of Cyprus’s six European Parliament seats, a May 15 IMR poll for state-run RIK TV showed. DISY is set to get 34.4 percent of the vote compared with 21.5 percent for the main opposition left-wing Akel party, which may lose one of its two seats. A Symmetron poll for Kathimerini newspaper May 18 gave Disy 34.1 percent and Akel 19.5 percent.

“People want us to carry on with the country’s rescue package,” Disy candidate Christos Stylianides, a former government spokesman, said in a phone interview.

“Many people are choosing to show their discontent by not voting,” said Valentinos Polikarpou, head of communications for Akel. “We will analyze on Sunday why we can’t turn this discontent into votes.”

Sixty-one candidates are running in the elections, including five Turkish Cypriots. The island has been divided into the internationally recognized Republic of Cyprus in the south and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus since 1974. The EU considers all of Cyprus part of its territory and Turkish Cypriots will be able to vote after crossing into the south.

A new round of reunification talks has entered a substantive phase, according to the United Nations. Cypriots should be united in a bi-zonal federation, US Vice President Joe Biden said Wednesday after arriving for an official visit.

“Some of my fellow Turkish Cypriots consider me a traitor, but I am using this chance to make my stand,” said Alev Tugberk, one of two Turkish Cypriot women running in the elections for the bi-communal Drasy-Eylem party. “Both communities can work together to solve their common problems,” Tugberk said in an interview in the UN-patrolled buffer zone separating the two sides of the island. [Bloomberg]