Cypriot elections

NICOSIA (Reuters) – Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos could be defeated in a presidential runoff against Communist challenger Demetris Christofias, a poll commissioned by Cyprus’s state-run broadcaster has said. Papadopoulos, 73, is seeking a second five-year term in elections scheduled for February 17. If candidates fail to win an outright majority, as polls suggest, a runoff will be held between the two main contenders on February 24. Monday night’s poll commissioned by the Cyprus Broadcasting Corporation gave Papadopoulos 30.5 percent in the first round, Christofias 30 percent and the third main challenger, Ioannis Cassoulides, 28 percent. A second round of voting between Papadopoulos and Christofias would give the Communist leader 42 percent of the vote against 36 percent for the incumbent, the Public Issue and Cymar Market Research poll said. A wide margin of respondents, 11 percent, were undecided. A second round between Papadopoulos and Cassoulides, who is backed by the right-wing DISY party, would see Papadopoulos winning 47 percent and Cassoulides 33 percent of the vote, the survey said. Christofias heads AKEL, the island’s Communist Party. He was the key backer of Papadopoulos’s center-left alliance until he quit earlier this year, accusing the president of dragging his feet in attempts to solve the island’s division. Papadopoulos, whom critics accuse of being hardline, urged Greek Cypriots to reject a United Nations reunification plan put to referendum in April 2004. The plan was accepted by Turkish Cypriots, but reunification efforts have been at a virtual standstill since. AKEL also disagreed with the timing of Cyprus’s admission to the eurozone, which it is poised to join on January 1, 2008, arguing that Cyprus needed more time to prepare.