Christofias win sparks hope for reunification

Cyprus has the only communist leader in the European Union after Dimitris Christofias, the head of the island’s Communist Party (AKEL), pipped his right-wing opponent Ioannis Kassoulides in yesterday’s presidential elections on the island. Christofias received some 30,000 votes more than Kassoulides, taking 53.36 percent of the popular vote, compared to his opponent’s 46.64 percent. Almost 470,000 of some 516,000 registered voters cast their ballots in yesterday’s second round. Outgoing President Tassos Papadopoulos came third in the first round of voting and was eliminated from yesterday’s poll. The election of Christofias and the removal from power of Papadopoulos has rekindled hopes that a reunification deal with Turkish-occupied northern Cyprus could be reached. It was revealed last night that Turkish-Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat called Christofias to congratulate him on his victory and the two men agreed to meet as soon as possible. «Talat congratulated Christofias and both of them agreed that they should meet,» a Talat aide told Agence France-Presse without mentioning a date for the potential meeting. A Christofias spokesman confirmed the conversation but also said that a date had not been set. However, Christofias made it clear that the reunification of Cyprus will be the top political goal during his presidency. «From tomorrow we unite our strengths. We shall work collectively and in unison to achieve reunification of our homeland,» said the 61-year-old after being confirmed as the winner. Kassoulides congratulated his opponent and said he and his center-right party, DISY, would stand by Christofias in his negotiations for a peace deal on the island. «We did not win the big battle but our party is stronger and more battle-worthy,» Kassoulides told disappointed supporters. Christofias was backed by a wide coalition of political parties, including Papadopoulos’s DIKO. In return, he promised the party’s members powerful government posts.