Cyprus elections too close to call

The three main candidates in tomorrow’s presidential elections in Cyprus yesterday wrapped up campaigning as opinion polls continued to show them virtually neck-and-neck. Analysts predicted a runoff on February 24, saying the vote would be too close to call. The incumbent, Tassos Papadopoulos, and his two rivals – Communist Party leader Dimitris Christofias and Ioannis Kassoulides, a right-wing moderate – yesterday all made their final appeals to some 500,000 Cypriots preparing to vote in Sunday’s polls. «Cyprus must send a message – on a local and international level – that the Cypriot people are not tired and have not regretted the decision they made in the 2004 referendum.» Papadopoulos was referring to the rejection by Greek Cypriots of a United Nations-backed blueprint for a peace settlement – a stance that he had urged. Papadopoulos says he would «seek movement on the Cyprus issue» immediately after the elections. But his rivals Christofias and Kassoulides have both portrayed him as a poor negotiator who has failed to build a constructive relationship with the international community. There are fears that yet another failure to reunify the island would lead to partition. So all candidates have prioritized reviving stalled peace talks. The candidates are also united in refusing to recognize a unilateral declaration by Kosovo, which is expected on the same day as Cypriots go to the polls. Nicosia fears that an autonomous Kosovo could set a precedent for the Turkish-occupied north of Cyprus.