15/05/2006 - D-7
On 21st May next the cypriots will vote in a new chamber of representatives in the first general elections organised since the referendum on 24th April 2004 on the peace plan put forward by the united nations with a view to the reunification of the country after 30 years of division and unsuccessful negotiations between the greek and turkish populations living on the island.
497 people standing for eleven political parties, i.e. thirty three less than during the last election on 27th may 2001, are official candidates in these elections. Also eight members of three minorities represented in the chamber of representatives will also be standing: Two roman catholics, two armenians and four maronites. It is obligatory to vote in cyprus even though nobody who has chosen to abstain, thereby not fulfilling his civic duty, has been punished in the last fifteen years. 30,000 young cypriots will go to ballot for the first time on 21st may next.
Only six of the 56 mp's at present in office will not be standing, including vassos lyssarides, aged 85 (46 of which have involved him political activities) and who is at present the oldest member of the chamber of representatives. Vassos Lyssarides, who was the founder of the social democrat movement, along with the movement of social democrats-centre union (edek), in 1969, was one of the fiercest opponents to the un peace plan which aimed to reunify the country and which all inhabitants of the island were asked to vote upon in the April referendum of 2004. 75.83% of the greek cypriots voted against and 24.17% in favour of the un initiative. However 64.9% of the turkish cypriots voted in favour versus 35.1% against.
The electorate's vote on 21st may next will provide an indication of how the cypriots feel two years after the referendum. After the election the political parties will have to decide on how they will take the cypriot case forward unless they choose to leave matters as they are. The most recent polls show that even more cypriots (64%) are confident in the president of the republic and government, Tassos Papadopoulos (democratic party, diko) – in cyprus the president of the republic also bears the title and function of head of government – and that less and less of them say they want to live with the turkish cypriots. According to the same poll, 48% of greek cypriots and 63% of the youngest aged 18 to 24 say they prefer to live separately from the turkish cypriots. Two years earlier 67% of those interviewed had said they were in favour of reunifying the island. Finally half of greek cypriots (50%) are against reinitiating dialogue between the island's two communities on the basis of the peace plan put forward by the un.
The president of the chamber of representatives and secretary general of the progressive workers' party (akel), Demetris Christofias, recently spoke with the vice president of the european commission, Margot Wallström and the commissioner for enlargement, Olli Rehn about the problem of the division of Cyprus. "We agreed on that next summer just before Turkey's evaluation by the european commission in October and before the turkish general elections planned for the autumn of 2007 was a good time to take initiatives," he declared.
Neshe Yashin, who caused a stir by becoming the first turkish cypriot to stand for a position as mp is however experiencing some problems in undertaking her campaign: indeed the 47 year old poetess whose mother tongue is turkish only speaks a little greek. "Neshe Yashin wants to convey a strong message", stresses the secretary general of the united democrats (edi), a party for whom the poetess is standing. "Neshe Yashin represents those who are tired but still have dream and a vision of reunification. Her election would be a revolution during the present time of status quo experienced by Cyprus". "By inviting the greek cypriots to vote for a turkish cypriot I see my candidature as a challenge against the rise of nationalism", declares Neshe Yashin. The candidate has deliberately avoided some subjects and is speaking in favour of demilitarisation and fresh negotiations for a federal solution to the cypriot problem. "Today no one talks about the future", says Neshe Yashin.
Just one week before the election polls indicate that the progressive workers' party will win the elections on 21st May. The majority party in the chamber of representatives will be closely followed by the democratic assembly (disy) and then by the democratic party. However polls show that the influence of each of the two main parties on the island is diminishing with each election which is to the advantage of the president of the republic's party. In addition to this the number of those undecided, around 10% of those interviewed is particularly high making all electoral forecasts difficult. "There are a number of reasons why the forecast of the results is difficult at present," stresses political analyst Yiannis Mavris, "the first being the way each of the political parties managed the post-referendum period and the second lies in the abstentionist attitude which is increasingly tolerated: hence during the european elections on 13th June 2004 the authorities officially said they would not punish those who chose to abstain". Finally the analyst recalls that two new parties were created recently – european democracy (ED) in July 2004 and the european party (ek) in July 2005 – for which we have no data on which to fall back on in order to anticipate their results on 21st May. "Cypriot interest with regard to these elections is less in comparison with that given to the last elections", concludes Yiannis Mavris.