Countdown in Cyprus

Countdown in Cyprus

Greek Cypriots will go to the polling booth Sunday to elect a new president to replace Demetris Christofias, who served such a disastrous presidency that he didn’t even dare to seek re-election. Most probably the first round of voting will be inconclusive, and the top two will contest a second and last round of voting on Feb. 24.
According to the latest public opinion polls, as has been the case ever since the start of the election campaign, Democratic Rally Party (DISY) leader Nikos Anastasiades is far ahead of the other presidential hopefuls. The support for the center-right politician was 42.5 percent in the latest opinion polls, while support for socialist candidate Stavros Malas from the Progressive Party of the Working People (AKEL) has been around 21 to 25 percent. Socialist-turned conservative George Lilikas from the Democracy Party (DIKO) appears unlikely to gain more than 22 percent of the vote. There are seven other candidates, but none of them have significant electoral backing.

The latest political analysis is that if, as expected, there will be a high, 85 percent participation in the vote, Anastasiades might get a maximum of 43 percent, while 21 percent will go to Malas and 19.5 to Lilikas, meaning the second round would be decided between Anastasiades and Malas. However, if the election participation remains as low as 75 percent, with anticipation that disgruntled socialists could stay away the most, some analysts say Anastasiades might score a direct victory… Still, they also conclude that this isn’t very likely.

In any case, and even though the decision of the people cannot be judged ahead of time, barring a shocking, last-minute development, it appears almost certain that if not in a direct victory, Anastasiades will emerge as the next Greek Cypriot president.

Does it matter who sits in the chair of the Greek Cypriot leadership? First of all, the priority for the next president will not be the Cyprus talks. The economic/financial house is on fire, and the new president is expected to carry buckets of fresh policies to douse the flames without asking Greek Cypriots to sacrifice their luxurious lifestyle. Miraculous formulae might be needed to cut government spending, decrease the current account deficit and collect more taxes without taking rigid measures and asking Greek Cypriots to compromise.

Anastasiades and his DISY were the sole supporters of the 2004 U.N.-brokered peace plan (accepted by Turkish Cypriots but rejected by Greek Cypriots). But, now he is trying to become president with the support of a coalition of conservatives mostly against a compromise settlement. Up until a few months ago, Anastasiades was talking of possibility of a loose federation bordering on confederation. Now, eager to win with the valuable support of the far-right, he appears to have relinquished his ideas. Or has he?

Ankara and northern Cyprus have been demanding for some time a five-party international conference which would indeed help Turkish and Greek Cypriots place the blame for difficult compromises on the two motherlands, Turkey and Greece, and strike a compromise deal. Anastasiades was receptive to the idea. Is he still?

Anyhow, at least Nicosia’s master of fickleness will be replaced.