No surprise in South Cyprus election
The first round of the Greek Cypriot presidential election was completed on Jan. 28 with no surprises. Amid a fall in the turnout of 11 percentage points, (down to 72 percent from 83 percent in the 2013 elections), incumbent Nikos Anastasiades only received 35.5 percent of the vote. His challenger Stavros Malas came second with 30.24 percent of the vote.
It would have been great if the run-off round on Feb. 4 had been contested between Anastasiades and Democratic Party (Diko) leader Nicholas Papadopoulos, as in that case the communist Progressive Party of Working People (Akel) would have played a kingmaker role. Now, Akel will still play a crucial role but the victory of Anastasiades appears to be a foregone conclusion.
In the first round of voting, Diko candidate Papadopoulos, the only candidate who publicly opposed a federal resolution of the Cyprus problem, received 25.74 percent of the vote. In the run-off of the 2003 presidential election Akel’s support was pivotal in the election victory of the late Tassos Papadopoulos against Glafkos Clerides.
Another interesting result of the first round this year was the unfortunate sharp increase of the far right National Popular Front (Elam) vote, up to 5.65 percent from the last parliamentary election in which it won 3 percent.
Even though it can be said confidently that Anastasiades will most likely be the victor in the run-off, political bargaining throughout the week might bring about some interesting results. For example, if Papadopulos’ Diko decides to repay Akel’s support for Papadopoulos Sr. in the 2003 election, a Diko-supported Malas could score an easy victory.
The results of the Greek Cypriot vote made a majority of Turkish Cypriot “federalists” rather happy, as throughout the campaign Anastasiades repeatedly pledged to resume federation talks with the Turkish Cypriots, picking up from wherever the talks were crushed at the Crans Montana in July 2017. But with tensions brewing between the Turkish Cypriot left and the Turkish government - not necessarily over the Cyprus problem but more related to the Turkey’s operation into the Syrian district of Afrin - Turkish Cypriot President Mustafa Akıncı might find it difficult to accept a resumption of talks from where they were left.
Indeed, Akıncı himself declared after the July collapse of the talks that the Greek Cypriots had no intention of sharing power with the Turkish Cypriots and were not at all interested in a federal resolution. He suggested that perhaps the time had come to seek some new formula for a Cyprus solution, including two states in the European Union.
While Akıncı may now be sounding a possible tone down in his position, possibly agreeing to a future resumption of federation talks, he has not yet dropped his preconditions for any further contacts with the Greek Cypriot side. These preconditions were as follows: 1) The process cannot continue open-ended and there ought to be a time limit. 2) The Turkish Cypriots should be given a clear perspective of what their status will be if the Greek Cypriots walk out of the process or force it to a deadlock. 3) The Greek Cypriots should agree to a power-sharing deal based on the political equality of the two people of the island, including rotation of the presidency.
Naturally, even if Akıncı has not publicly declared it as a precondition, a Greek Cypriot acceptance of Turkey’s continued security guarantee and Turkey’s military presence on Cyprus will return as a major issue in any new round of talks. Progress was made on those issues at Crans Montana, but although Anastasiades has stressed his readiness to resume talks where they were left in July the Turkish side believes there ought to be a new initiative starting from scratch.