Greek Cypriots root for pro-EU camp in elections in north

NICOSIA – Greek Cypriots are crossing their fingers that Sunday’s polls on the other side of the UN-manned Green Line will finally dislodge hardline Turkish-Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash and clear the way to a settlement on the divided island. Greek Cypriots are taking an unusually keen interest in parliamentary elections to take place in the Turkish-held north, believing this time they could make a difference. «It’s a crucial election,» political analyst Christoforos Christoforou told AFP. «The election has turned out to be a referendum on a settlement and on the integration of Turkish Cypriots with the EU.» The pro-solution opposition formed a broad alliance to try to oust the parties backing Denktash’s nationalist stance and have vowed to kick out the veteran leader as negotiator with the Greek Cypriots if they win a workable majority in Parliament. «The economy is not doing well and Turkish Cypriots have realized they are not the masters of their own destiny. Today they speak openly about (Turkish) occupation, this was not the case even two years ago,» Christoforou said. Turkish Cypriots number less than half the 200,000 population in the north where claims of vote-rigging – by speeding up naturalization of mainland Turkish settlers – have raged during the campaign and tempered Greek-Cypriot optimism. Although Greek Cypriots are rooting for the opposition, others believe that regardless of what happens, Ankara holds the trump card on Cyprus. «There are Greek Cypriots who feel that whatever the result, Ankara holds the real power,» said Christoforou. He criticized political parties in the south and the Greek-Cypriot government of President Tassos Papadopoulos for openly supporting the opposition. Earlier this week, Demetris Christofias, leader of communist Akel in the ruling coalition, summed up Nicosia’s position. «The only thing we can do at this moment is hope the powers that want to resume talks based on the Annan Plan and which confront the unyielding stance of Mr Denktash, will be the winners,» Christofias told reporters. But Christoforou argues that «Greeks bearing gifts» are viewed with suspicion among Turkish Cypriots, with trust between the communities not a strong point. «Greek Cypriots in general have sided with the opposition, which is a mistake and could prove counterproductive,» said the analyst. He blamed the EU and Washington for playing the same high-risk «all or nothing» game.