A communist with backing

As expected following the decision by DIKO and EDEK, Dimitris Christofias beat Ioannis Kassoulides to become the first president of the Republic of Cyprus to be a member of AKEL. Until recently, the Communist Party steered away from nominating a representative for president, not because it was wary of reaction internally, but, rather, because it did not want to provoke a reaction from the USA and UK. AKEL’s common practice was to put its significant electoral clout behind presidential candidates from the center. In the 1980s, it helped get Spyros Kyprianou and Giorgos Vassileiou elected. Tassos Papadopoulos won the elections in same way in 2003. Yet Christofias’s candidacy was not about misgivings and fears being put aside. The party chief announced his candidacy with full knowledge that both Washington and London were banking on him, firstly because they knew that this was the only way to get Papadopoulos out of the game and, secondly, because they believe that there is greater likelihood that AKEL can forge an Annan-style solution to the division of Cyprus. Who can forget Colin Powell’s insistent calls to Christofias to support a «yes» vote in the 2004 referendum? Back then, faced with the danger of a party meltdown, the leader of AKEL was compelled to vote against the Annan plan, because, as he said at the time, this was a way to ensure that in the future the «no» vote could turn into a stronger «yes.» Therefore, the Turks, Americans and British are quite right to see Christofias’s election as a major opportunity for breakthrough, for an Annan-style solution.