Cyprus elections and the Annan plan

It is plain to see that Tassos Papadopoulos’s stance over the Annan plan referendum made the Cypriot president some very powerful adversaries. It is not just the Anglo-American element that sees him as an obstacle and is working behind the scenes for his downfall, for Papadopoulos has also become an aggravation to the majority of those who were in favor of Annan’s plan in Cyprus and in Greece. Although an overwhelming 76 percent majority of Greek Cypriots rejected the plan, the leaderships of the two main parties (DISY and AKEL) to varying degrees took a positive view of an Annan-style solution. In Athens, there are no objections to such an eventuality. It is therefore quite clear that should Papadopoulos fail to be re-elected in February, the road will be left wide open. If AKEL – which was one of the parties that helped get Papadopoulos elected and which participated in the government – decides to nominate its own candidate for the presidency, the government front will crack. Washington and London would like to see a repeat of 1988, when AKEL had nominated its own candidate and by doing so eliminated from the second round then-president Spyros Kyprianou, who had been accused of «intransigence.» The following Sunday, the contest was between the two candidates of the two main parties (AKEL and DISY), both of whom were acceptable to America and Britain. However, 2008 is not 1988. Despite the fact that there is a great deal of electoral inertia in Cyprus, the referendum’s 76 percent does carry its own weight. If Dimitris Christofias (AKEL) does eventually run, it is very likely he will be eliminated from the second round, which would entail a heavy political defeat for his party. Numerous opinion polls aside, last year’s parliamentary election also clearly illustrated the public’s preference for middle-ground parties that had supported the «no» vote and who are now backing the president. Should Christofias not run, then Papadopoulos will gain the initiative to unify this middle ground and turn it into a third front. He has not done so yet because he wanted to avoid antagonizing AKEL. For Papadopoulos to lose the elections, the majority of AKEL voters will have to turn to the right-wing Yiannakis Kassoulides (DISY) in the second round, though this is highly unlikely considering that not only is the majority of AKEL anti-right, but it is also opposed to an Annan-style solution. The same, however, cannot be said of DISY’s electoral base, and not only as far as the Annan plan is concerned, but also in terms of their stance should they be called upon to choose between Papadopoulos and Christofias in the second round. In other words, the voters of the two main parties will not be taking their cue from their party leaders. From this perspective, the Anglo-American efforts will most probably prove to be politically fruitless.

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