OPINION

The underlying issue in Cyprus

The three-way split of voters in the first round of presidential elections on Cyprus and the exclusion of Tassos Papadopoulos by the narrowest of margins is open to several different interpretations. In Greece, Papadopoulos’s numerous enemies, most of whom fervently support the Annan Plan, rejoiced at the electoral defeat of the last representative of the Cypriot national liberation struggle. These hostile analysts have still not forgiven him for his dramatic speech on the eve of the 2004 referendum on the Annan Plan, for a speech that other commentators have called historic because it led to 76 percent of Cypriots voting against the UN blueprint for reunification. It has been said that Papadopoulos’s defeat in 2008 is a criticism of the «No» vote he elicited in 2004. Nothing could be further from the truth, either politically or historically. The presidential elections and the referendum are two radically different processes – in the latter case the people are called upon to deliberate on the future and they expressed themselves beyond political affiliations. In the elections, the people spoke in terms of the present and the vote was fairly split three ways. The stakes here were not a here-and-now solution to everything, and none of the three candidates presented such a platform, not even the outgoing president who made a series of tactical errors in his campaign. There is no doubt, though, that what is ultimately at issue is a solution. A solution based on a revised version of the Annan Plan, or a solution based on a radically new strategy which will be appropriate to 21st-century geopolitics and Cyprus’s modern face. The «No» vote did not bring disaster. Nor is the election of a new president, even one who does not belong to the historical 76 percent, a disaster. Greek Cypriots have proved that despite all hardships they will always survive.