08/02/2008 - D-7 - 1st round
On 17th February next 515,994 Cypriots will go to ballot in the first round of the presidential election i.e. 15,608 voters more than during the last general elections on 21st May 2006. 390 Turkish Cypriots living in the southern part of the island have registered and will be allowed to vote for the first time in the island's history.
In Cyprus the President of the Republic also assumes the role of Prime Minister.
9 people are running that is one less than in the election on 16th February 2003:
- Tassos Papadopoulos, 73 years old, outgoing President supported by the Democratic Party (DIKO), the Movement of Social Democrats-Centre Union (EDEK), the European Party (EK) and the Ecologist and Environmentalist Movement-Green Party (KEP);
- Demetris Christofias, 60 years old, president of the Chamber of Representatives, the only chamber in Parliament, for the last two terms in office, leader of the Progressive Party of Working People (AKEL), supported by the United Democratic Movement (KOP);
- Ioannis Kasoulidès, supported by the Democratic Rally (DISY), former Foreign Minister (1997-2003) and MEP;
- Marios Matsakis, MEP (DIKO);
- Costas Themistocleous, former Agriculture, Natural Resources and Environment Minister ;
- Costas Kyriakou, writer and farmer;
- Michael Anastasios, academic;
- Christodoulos Neophytou, businessman;
- Andreas Efstratiou, business man.
The Electoral Campaign
Outgoing President Tassos Papadopoulos is focussing his campaign on the results of five years as Head of State. At the end of January he presented his programme comprising 160 promises. Amongst these are plans to improve healthcare services, the development of Internet in schools, doubling the amount given as grants to students who want to continue their education abroad, etc. Tassos Papadopoulos has the support of the Archbishop of the Cypriot Orthodox Church, Chrysostomos. In addition to this at the end of January the main daily in Cyprus, Philileftheros, published a list of 141 army members, either still engaged or retired, who said they supported the outgoing President. The army members say they are committed to Tassos Papadopoulos "because we are concerned for the future of our country. As officers and experts of defence policy we declare that we are totally against all the proposals put forward by the Democratic Rally and the Progressive Party of Working People in favour of a reduction in the time spent in military service." This petition was the source of controversy on the island when some of the people quoted maintained that they knew nothing about the publication and above all that they were not in favour of the re-election of the President of the Republic. "We are not responsible for anything that appeared in the Philileftheros," said the outgoing President's campaign team.
The issue of the island's division, since the failure of the referendum on 24th April 2004 with regard to the peace plan put forward by the UN, is still the vital question in Cyprus and as in every electoral campaign it is the focus of debate. The solution suggested by all candidates is a federation rallying the two communities. However each has a different view of what this federation might look like. "We shall continue work and, uncompromisingly, look for the best solution," says Tassos Papadopoulos. "We want to go further, we do not want to remain in stalemate as we have done over the past five years," repeats Ioannis Kasoulidès. The former Foreign Minister indicated that if he is elected he would travel to the Turkish part of the island on 25th February to meet its President Mehmet Ali Talat (Turkish Republican Party CTP). "On 25th February next I shall go to the occupied regions of Kyrenia to see Mehmet Ali Talat. He cannot decline my invitation to a meeting with a newly elected Head of State who wants to see him and talk about peace measures that we could establish for the future of the two communities," he declared. He said that he wanted the UN to withdraw and allow the two parts – Greek and Turk – to negotiate alone.
Marios Karoyian, the Democratic Party spokesperson accused the Progressive Party of Working People (AKEL) of denouncing Tassos Papadopoulos's action or rather inaction and is quick to point out that AKEL was a member of the government team for four and a half years. Likewise the chairman of the Social Democratic Movement-Centre Union, Yiannakis Omirou, accuses Demetris Christofias and Ioannis Kasoulidès of minimising the 8th July 2006 agreement approved by the UN, whereby the leaders of both parties of the island, Tassos Papadopoulos and Mehmet Ali Talat promised to reunify the island, to find a global settlement, to reject the status quo and to launch a series of bi-community discussions immediately. The outgoing Cypriot President said he was ready to hold discussions with his counterpart from the Turkish Republic of Cyprus under the auspices of the UN "whenever the latter wanted." Mehmet Ali Talat maintained that the presidential election on 17th and 23rd February comprised "a last chance to see successful negotiations between the two communities."
An electoral debate took place on 4th February and it was broadcast on five TV channels. It brought together outgoing President Tassos Papadopoulos, Demetris Christofias and Ioannis Kasoulidès. The three candidates addressed economic and social issues including healthcare, education, youth and the modernisation of public administration. Costas Themistocleous said how angry he was not to have been invited to the debate. "It would appear that some cannot tolerate our criticism, especially those who have been governing us for the past five years," he maintained. A second debate will be organised on 14th February and will focus on the division of Cyprus.
Outgoing President, Tassos Papadopoulos is credited with 32.8% of the vote according to a poll by Insights Market Research (IMR), published at the beginning of February. He is followed by Demetris Christofias with 32.5% and Ioannis Kasoulidès with 29.9%. Costas Themistocleous and Marios Matsakis are due to win 1.4% and 0.6% respectively. The outgoing President achieves his best results in the area of Limassol and amongst the older generation; Demetris Christofias does better in Larnaca and Famagousta; Ioannis Kasoulidès has better scores in Nicosia and amongst the young.