Favorite emerges in Cyprus election

The leader of Cyprus’s Communist Party, Dimitris Christofias, emerged yesterday as the front-runner in the island’s presidential race after DIKO, the party of outgoing President Tassos Papadopopulos, agreed to back the left-wing candidate. In a vote taken by the center-right party’s central committee, 112 of the 180 members opted for backing Christofias in this Sunday’s poll. Only 50 members backed the other candidate Ioannis Kassoulides. «The decision serves the best interests of the party and the country,» said DIKO President Marios Karoyan. If 62-year-old Christofias triumphs over the right-wing candidate Kassoulides, he will become the European Union’s only communist leader. The prospect of this happening prompted an immediate response from the Church of Cyprus, which called for its faithful to back the 59-year-old MEP Kassoulides. «We unreservedly will advise our people this coming Sunday to vote for Mr Kasoulides,» said the Church’s leader, Archbishop Chrysostomos. DIKO was the largest member of a five-party coalition that supported Papadopoulos in the 2003 presidential election. Christofias is on his way to recreating this coalition and leaving behind Kassoulides, who garnered some 1,000 votes more than the Communist leader in last Sunday’s first round of voting. Papadopoulos came third and will not stand in the second round this Sunday.