Vote boosts Cypriot leader, but not prospects for unity
Greek Cypriot President Spyros Kyprianou's Democratic Party has emerged substantially strengthened from Sunday's parliamentary elections. The strong showing of his right-of-center party is regarded by political observers in Athens and Nicosia as a strong personal triumph for President Kyprianou.
But despite Kyprianou's personal victory, few Cypriot or foreign observers expect the result to strengthen his hand in negotiations with Turkish Cypriots, who control the northern part of the island. Observers say the election results may only offer a temporary respite from current political troubles.
Cyprus has been divided into Greek and Turkish sectors since Turkish troops invaded the northern part of the island in 1974. Some 80 percent of Cypriots are of Greek descent, and the Turkish Muslim minority constitutes 18 percent.
Sunday's election was called early after the two largest parties in the outgoing parliament, the communist Akel Party and the right-wing Democratic Rally Party, sought to force Kyprianou's resignation after a summit meeting between him and Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash, in January of this year, failed to achieve a solution to the division of the island.
Political observers in Greece and Cyprus attribute Kyprianou's success in this election to the fear of many voters that a victory for the Akel-Democratic Rally effort to unseat Kyprianou would lead to unacceptable concessions to the Turks -- such as a continued strong Turkish military presence and a legalization of the separation of the two communities. With more than three-quarters of the vote counted at press time, the Democratic Party had just under 28 percent of the vote, up from 19.5 percent in 198 1. The main change from the last parliamentary election was the drop in support for the communist Akel.
However, according to one Western diplomat in Athens, ``the clash between Kyprianou and the two big parties [Akel and the Rally] has already made a mockery of any claim that a unified front exists [among Greek Cypriots]. The election has not bridged the gap between their different approaches. In the end, [Turkish leader] Denktash may be the main winner.''
While the Greek Cypriots were embroiled in their infighting, Mr. Denktash was able to push ahead with efforts to consolidate his breakaway state in the north of Cyprus. A new constitution has been approved, and parliamentary and presidential elections have been held. Only Turkey recognizes the Turkish Cypriot entity.
Members of Akel and the Democratic Rally want Kyprianou to accept a United Nations-sponsored draft agreement that would reunite Cyprus into a federated state. But Kyprianou has insisted there can be no settlement before all Turkish troops are withdrawn from the northern part of the island -- the self-proclaimed Turkish Repulic of Northern Cyprus. Kyprianou also insists that all Greek Cypriot refugees, who fled from the north during the 1974 Turkish invasion, be allowed to resettle in northern Cyprus.
Under the island's presidential system, Kyprianou does not have to follow the dictates of parliament. Akel and the Rally had pledged to pass revisions to the constitution abolishing presidential independence if together they won the required two thirds majority in the new parliament. Had the parties gained this majority, Kyprianou would almost certainly have resigned -- three years before the end of his mandate.
Though Akel and the Rally failed to win the two-thirds majority needed to amend the constitution and their combined strength declined, the two parties will still have a majority in the new parliament. They may use that majority to block the President's budget or other crucial legislation, thus keeping the political crisis alive.