16/02/2003 - D-7
Just as the UN has expressed its desire for the two Cypriot leaders Glafcos Cléridès, President of the Republic of Cyprus (South), and Rauf Denktash, leader of the Turkish part (North), to reach an agreement on the reunification of Cyprus before 28th February, the peace negotiations are in deadlock because of the disagreement between the two communities on territorial issues. Rauf Denktash is firmly against handing back part of Turkish Cypriot territory (the UN plan stipulates that Turkish Cypriots would control 28% of the island against the present 37%).
The two leaders meet three times per week under the tutelage of the UN in order to debate the peace plan. The Greek Prime Minister, Costas Simitis who is at present in charge of the Presidency of the European Union recently said that it would be "extremely difficult" to reach an agreement on Cyprus for the end of February. Likewise the head of Greek diplomacy George Papandreou has said that he is pessimistic about the peace agreement. For his part the President of the Republic of Cyprus, Glafcos Cléridès, would like negotiations on reunification to continue after the 28th February deadline if no agreement has been reached by that date. A revision of the UN peace plan, that has already been modified once, might be undertaken soon and be submitted to both parties. For their part and, as requested by the UN, both Greece and Turkey should be starting bilateral negotiations on Cyprus' security in addition to the present negotiations between the two communities on the island. These discussions should address the number and duration of the mandates of the armed forces that each country would maintain on the island if it were to be reunified. Both Cypriot communities are to ratify any agreement signed by their leaders by referendum, before jointly signing the document for the island's membership to the European Union on 16th April next.
As far as the presidential election is concerned, Glafcos Cléridès might very well end his long political career in failure. All opinion polls indicate that victory lies with Tassos Papadopoulos (Democratic Party, Diko), the candidate supported by the two other opposition parties (The Progressive Labour Party, Akel, and the Social Democrat Party, Kisos) ahead of the outgoing President (Democratic Assembly, Disy). The latest poll undertaken by the Cymar Market Research Institute at the end of January indicated Tassos Papadopoulos had 43,9% of the vote, Glafcos Cléridès 31,5%, Alekos Markidès (Disy) 9,2% and Nicos Koutsou (New Horizons, a rightwing movement) 2,9%. Another survey undertaken at the beginning of February by Mega granted 45,9% of the intention to vote to Tassos Papadopoulos versus 33,9% to Glafcos Cléridès ( 8,2% to Alekos Markidès and 1,8% to Nicos Koutsou). Around 10% of the electorate are still undecided. Finally second round forecasts indicate that Tassos Papadopoulos will win over the outgoing President.
The outgoing President is supported by his political movement, the Disy, that had, before he said that he would stand, chosen to support the president of the Social Democrat party (Kisos) Yannanakis Omirou in the race for the supreme office. Glafcos Cléridès is also supported by the Democratic Movement (Adik), a centre-right movement. Alekos Markidès' candidature is surely the main obstacle to a victory by the outgoing President even though he is not alone; since Tassos Papadopoulos has been considered favourite by all pre-election opinion polls over the last few weeks. The public prosecutor and former right hand man to Glafcos Cléridès is opposed to the outgoing President's renewed candidature believing that he should stand down as he had announced previously; his departure would either be crowned with success i.e. the reunification of Cyprus or follow failure, if an agreement between the two communities was not reached. Alekos Markidès has added that Glafcos Cléridès has no credibility when he says that he only wants to take care of reunification during his mandate. "All stakes are important and all are linked to the country's future. We need a President who can respond to all of the questions facing the country and not a head of State who is only interested in the main stakes i.e. reunification and membership of the European Union, whilst the others take care of the rest" declared the public prosecutor.
The battle has therefore begun for the election of the future Cypriot head of State. Except if something unexpected happens at the last minute, Glafcos Cléridès (Disy) and Tassos Papadopoulos (Diko) should logically take the lead in the first round of the election and face each other in the second round of the presidential election that will take place one week later on 23rd February.