Greek Cypriots to vote in general elections

A Cyprus government official prepares to transport ballot boxes to polling stations. AP photo
A Cyprus government official prepares to transport ballot boxes to polling stations. AP photo

Greek Cypriots vote on Sunday in a parliamentary election that could threaten the unity of a governing coalition leading peace talks in Cyprus, discussions that are important for Turkey’s EU bid, according to a report by Reuters.
Although the May 22 election has no direct effect on Greek Cyprus’s presidential system of government, it is expected to shape alliances for the presidential contest in 2013, Reuters reported on its website.
Incumbent President Demetris Christofias rules in a coalition of his Communist AKEL party, and the centrist Democratic Party, or Diko, an uneasy alliance likely to come into sharper focus before the presidential vote. Polls predict Diko will keep its role of kingmaker, but may lose votes, possibly because of its affiliation with AKEL.

Polls give the main opposition party, the right-wing Democratic Rally, a marginal lead over AKEL with Diko in third place. “These elections are a first test and an opportunity for horse-trading with a view to the presidential elections,” said Hubert Faustmann, associate professor of history and politics at Nicosia University. “Very often who supports whom in electing the speaker of parliament is a strong indicator of who will support whom in the presidential election.”

Cyprus was divided into a Greek Cypriot south and a Turkish Cypriot north in 1974 when Turkey intervened in response to a coup by supporters of a union with Greece. The Greek Cypriot government represents the island in the European Union, which says Turkey cannot join so long as the island remains divided.

Christofias, largely viewed as a moderate, negotiates as leader of the Greek Cypriot community in U.N. reunification talks. The United Nations wants a deal by mid-2012, fearing a growing stalemate as campaigning intensifies and Cyprus assumes the rotating EU presidency in the second half of 2012.

Diko, which has been a partner in most governments ranging from left to right since it was established in 1976, threw its weight behind Christofias’s election bid in 2008. “There is a divergence of views within Diko, and a kind of split in the party, not just on negotiations, but about proposals already on the table,” political analyst Christoforos Christoforou told Reuters.

Diko has been critical of Christofias’s offer of a rotating presidency with Turkish Cypriots as part of a federal deal to settle the Cyprus question. Prominent members have criticized the government for its slow response to the financial crisis in which Cyprus experienced its first recession in more than three decades in 2009. Whether Christofias will accommodate more Diko concerns to enlist its support for his re-election is open to question.

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