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MUSTAFA AYDIN > Cyprus on the edge

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One of the most crucial elections in southern Cyprus was held Feb. 17 under the shadow of economic crisis rather than the traditional focus on the “Cyprus issue.” Nicos Anastasiades, head of the center-right Democratic Rally Party (DISY), won 45.4 percent of the votes while his main challenger, Stavros Malas, backed by the communist AKEL, got 26.9 percent. Giorgos Lillikas, supported by socialist EDEK, came in third with 24.9 percent. Since nobody passed the 50 percent threshold, the two leading candidates will go for a runoff vote on Feb. 24. Anastasiades is the favorite. His credible stance on economic issues with the international community helps. Yet, he might need to compromise somewhat, especially from his stance on relations with the Turkish Cypriots, as he has to make a deal with EDEK to top up his votes to the 50 percent necessary to become the next president of the Republic of Cyprus.

The successor of incumbent President Demetris Christofias, who is mainly blamed for the current economic situation, would not have a honeymoon period as the country is on the edge, waiting for financial rescue. The results of the elections clearly showed the Greek Cypriots’ preference for new leadership to take the country out of the crisis. Anastasiades could be the best option on that point as he promised to resume the stalled negotiations with the Troika – the European Commission, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) – on a rescue package that includes the 17 billion euros of financial assistance needed. The negotiations regarding the package started in July 2012, but the reluctance of Christofias to accept the austerity measures paralyzed the process.

The Troika, too, prefers to wait for the results before offering the terms of the bailout. The moderate views of Anastasiades and German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s support during her visit to Cyprus in January would ease the process. His ability to reach a bailout agreement despite the strong opposition might give him enough credibility and clout to start dealing with other important issues, such as relations with the Turkish Cypriots, finding a solution to the Cyprus problem and the looming crisis with Turkey over natural gas in the Eastern Mediterranean.

The talk of natural gas exploration in the Eastern Mediterranean has become part of a wider problem with Turkey over the exclusive economic zones in the region. The looming crisis will become even more serious if and when the elected president decides to capitalize on the natural gas and looks for ways to transfer it to markets.

Although the best route for such a transfer to European countries, where the ready market could be found, would be through Turkey, the non-recognition of the Cyprus Republic and unresolved Cyprus problem would definitely prevent even a suggestion of it. Yet, the energy could be the key to open the gates for a dialogue between the parties. Undoubtedly, Eastern Mediterranean gas riches could become enough incentive to restart the negotiations and would help build confidence. However, Turkish Cypriots would have to be part of any discussion and deal, which is harder to sell to the Greek Cypriots as they seem to have been living for a long time in a kind of delusional world where everything would in one day be arrayed according to their wildest dreams.

Anastasiades’ positive stance on the Annan Plan, which was rejected by Greek Cypriots in 2004, raised hopes about the possibility of a comprehensive solution on the island, though there has been no progress in the U.N.-facilitated talks between the Greek and Turkish Cypriot sides since 2008. I hope that Anastasiades will not have to bargain on his position about relations with the Turks in order to be elected. The economic crisis might in fact help him on this ground.

February/21/2013

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Murat

2/21/2013 4:44:37 PM

Yiorgos, I go with what I hear and read in this and many other forums. When it comes to Cyprus and Turks in general, basic point of view shows very little difference among Greeks of many persuasions and tendencies. Am I wrong?

constantinos kio

2/21/2013 3:13:12 PM

@dutch israel ? russia ? usa ? french? or maybe you great worrior ?

Dennis Kavaz

2/21/2013 3:08:47 PM

For so long the Greek-Cypriots have a say in the gas or its transportation, Turkey or the T-Cypriots won’t get even the smell of it. If the G -Cypriots would not shear Cyprus with the T Cypriots, I can’t see how they would shear the gas.

DutchTurk JANICAR

2/21/2013 2:29:59 PM

Guess who will give the last kick from the edge :D

Yiorgos K

2/21/2013 12:38:48 PM

(continued) > Anastasiadis and Malas couldn't attract Lillikas followers if they've tried [and AKEL made an attempt, focusing on the anti-solution faction's common elements with the center left in economic and social policy]. Anastasiadis mumbled something about "discussing" with Lillikas but quickly let it go. Now AKEL and DISY are too busy demonising each other. [Also, Murat, how racist of you to say that. Greek character varies to the same extent that Turkish, or any national character, does]

Yiorgos K

2/21/2013 12:32:12 PM

The writer is a little bit behind on developments as EDEK has announced it will support neither candidate, with Lillikas very likely doing the same. No matter though, the voters who supported Lillikas are a hodge podge of people from different parties besides EDEK as well as the occasional disgruntled nationalist. >

kibrisli TURK

2/21/2013 9:20:06 AM

TC's are out of patience with the games of the GC's. We need to look at our future with regards to Natural resource exploration & international recognition, starting with the OIC. cheers

Chris Green

2/21/2013 9:15:01 AM

The final sentence of the penultimate paragraph in this very good piece, sums up the situation pretty well in respect of the delusional world occupied by the southern Cypriots. Roll on the weekend when the curtain should drop on the whole show!

Murat

2/21/2013 12:21:49 AM

It is hard to expect any change as the underlying Greek character does not vary from one party to another.
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