Fiery MEP to stand in Cyprus poll

NICOSIA (AFP) – Controversial Cypriot MEP Marios Matsakis said yesterday that he will be a candidate in February’s presidential elections on the divided east Mediterranean island. A pathologist by profession, Matsakis told a news conference that «to announce that I want to stand for president means that I have some hope of winning. But that doesn’t mean that I am also unrealistic. «I honestly searched hard to find a candidate whose views correspond to mine – but I unfortunately couldn’t find anyone.» Asked if he hoped to take votes from incumbent President Tassos Papadopoulos, Matsakis said his candidacy «does not aim to hurt any party or any other candidate.» But he added: «The president has not telephoned me for three-and-a-half years. He never called me when I was experiencing difficulties in my life and I believe he should have.» The maverick member of the European Parliament has raised eyebrows in the past over his behavior, which included facing criminal charges on the British sovereign bases on the island because of alleged vandalism. The charges were later dropped. Other stunts included crossing into the Turkish-occupied north despite knowing that he was wanted by the Turkish Cypriots and running into the UN-patrolled buffer zone to snatch a Turkish flag from an unmanned army post. That incident resulted in his expulsion from the center-right DIKO party, then headed by Papadopoulos. Matsakis was also recently acquitted by a Nicosia court on charges of blackmailing a police officer and illegal possession of antiquities. Other candidates in the February 17 first round of the presidential poll are Papadopoulos, Ioannis Kasoulides, who is backed by the right-wing opposition DISY, Parliament Speaker Demetris Christofias, who heads the communist AKEL party, and independent Costas Themistocleous.