New landscape in Cyprus after poll

The Greek-Cypriot community wants its leadership to get to work on achieving a compromise, but viable, solution to the problem of their divided island. That is the message from the presidential elections in Cyprus on Sunday. At the same time, it is clear that hopes lie with the future rather than the past. Not only in terms of politicians’ ages, with 59-year-old Ioannis Kassoulides and 62-year-old Dimitris Christofias beating 74-year-old Tassos Papadopoulos, but also in terms of the approach to the Cyprus problem. The international community should be careful not to misinterpret the result. The solution that will be sought through a new proposal cannot be the Annan Plan, which was rejected four years ago by the overwhelming majority of 76 percent. The UN, the USA and the EU would do well to take this seriously into account as they prepare to begin exploratory talks in the next few weeks in order to draft the next proposal for resolving the Cyprus issue. The two candidates that will battle it out in the second round on Sunday had declared themselves in favor of the Annan Plan on a personal level and cannot ignore the message sent by 76 percent of Greek Cypriots in 2004. Last Sunday, the unlikely winner Ioannis Kassoulides received votes from 25 percent of those that voted against the Annan Plan and Communist Party leader Dimitris Christofias garnered support from 35 percent of those that rejected Annan’s proposal. It is a percentage that the next president cannot disregard when he oversees the next attempt at finding a solution. If the February 17 poll was a referendum on Papadopoulos’s handling of the situation, then he has been dealt a clear defeat. Not only did he lose but he came third with 72 percent of the electorate voting against him because it does not consider the current situation to be ideal. Although Cyprus has become an EU member and has joined the eurozone, Greek Cypriots do not feel secure and don’t want to settle for the status quo. The truth is that from the moment Christofias decided to stand as a candidate, the electoral landscape changed completely, at Papadopoulos’s expense. The outgoing president lost the majority of the voters who had backed him in 2003 when he stood as the candidate of his party, the Communist Party (AKEL) and the socialist EDEK. Sunday’s elections confirmed once again that Democratic Rally and AKEL are still the main draws in the Cypriot political system. As for this Sunday, the negotiations have already begun and there are many scenarios as to what could happen. It is doubtful whether, after the results of the first round and Papadopoulos’s defeat, AKEL, DIKO and EDEK can remain under one roof. There is likely to be a large number of voters switching sides and the final result remains in doubt.