18/02/2008 - Results - 1st round
Outgoing President Tassos Papadopoulos (Democratic Party DIKO) came third in the first round of the presidential election in Cyprus on 17th February winning 31.7% of the vote. Therefore he will not be taking part in the second round on 24th February which will witness a confrontation between Ioannis Kasoulides (Democratic Rally DISY), who won 33.51% of the vote and Demetris Christofias (Progressive Party of the Working People AKEL) who won 33.29% of the vote. The other six candidates won under 1% of the votes each.
The turn out rate in Cyprus, where it is obligatory to vote, rose to 89.42%, an almost identical figure to that recorded in the first round of the previous presidential election on 16th February 2003 (-1.1 point). Several thousand Cypriots living abroad, many of whom are students, representing 4% of all voters, benefited from a free flight back home to vote. Likewise the authorities established a special service to help Greek Cypriots living in the Northern part of the island to fulfil their civic duty: voters in Nicosia were driven in Red Cross vehicles to polling stations that were specially equipped for them. They were then offered lunch.
The expulsion of the outgoing President in the first round was a surprise even though the polls had forecast that the three main candidates would be running neck and neck. The man who stood as the defender of the Greek Cypriot cause and who called on voters to provide him with a new five year term in office in order to send out a clear message to say that the Cypriots did not regret having rejected the 2004 UN peace plan for the reunification of the country was therefore dismissed.
"It is very important for this message to be sent in Cyprus and abroad: the Cypriot people is the only master of its fate," declared Tassos Papadopoulos on 15th February. "Today Cyprus is stronger than it was before, its future is in our hands and with the people's help I hope that we can find the solution we want and deserve," he stressed on the day before the election. Tassos Papadopoulos focussed his electoral campaign on socio-economic problems but as each time in Cyprus the reunification of the island lay at the heart of the debate. "The people has judged and chosen. I respect that choice. My thoughts, my decisions and my acts have always been driven by my love for this country and its people," he declared on the announcement of the results.
"The dismissal of an intransigent party should accelerate the start of the negotiation process," commented Hasan Ercakika, spokesperson of the Turkish Cypriot administration when he learnt of the expulsion of Tassos Papadopoulos.
The two candidates who came out ahead are calling for an opening towards the Turkish community.
Former Foreign Minister (1997-2003) in the Glafcos Clerides government and present MEP Ioannis Kasoulides stands as the candidate for the young and movement; he is promising the Cypriots a "new start". "It is the first time we are voting after Cyprus joined the European Union. We want our country to be modern, for its citizens to be respected; we want to put an end to the island's occupation by the Turkish troops." Ioannis Kasoulidès, came out ahead and is the only one of the three main candidates to have called to vote "yes" in the referendum on 24th April 2004 on the future of the island during which 75.83% of the Greek Cypriots rejected the peace plan put forward by the UN.
"The time has come for all of those who believe that Cyprus must become a modern, European State to meet and to rise above what divided the people of Cyprus, notably over the last few years and for us to remember our fundamental values. We have taken a first step towards the future, towards the future we deserve, the future we are dreaming of. Now we can take another final step," declared Ioannis Kasoulidès when the results were announced. During the electoral campaign he said that if he won he would travel to the Turkish part of the island on 25th February to meet the Turkish President of Northern Cyprus, Mehmet Ali Talat (Republican Turkish Party CTP). He said that he wanted the UN to stand down and leave the two sides – Greek and Turkish – to negotiate on their own. For its part the UN has said that there will not be another initiative on its part since it wants both sides to assume their responsibilities.
Demetris Christofias, the first leader in the history of the Progressive Party of the Working People to run in the Presidential election, says he is able to "bring the Greek and Turkish communities of the island together." "It is our aim to reunify this proud people, the Greek and Turkish Cypriots, to guarantee the respect of Human Rights and freedom and to build a happy country together," he declared.
Indeed the Cypriots seem to have seen that inertia can make a situation even more difficult and have shown their fears that as time passes (the island has been divided for nearly 34 years), division will be the only possible solution.
"If you want to find a political message in this first round, 65% of the Greek Cypriots voted for candidates who are clearly in favour of a solution," stressed Hubert Faustmann when the first results were announced. "The Greek Cypriots have returned to the negotiation table," he said enthusiastically. All diplomats are forecasting a new round of negotiations between the two parts of the island before the end of the year and this, whoever wins the election on 24th February.
The way Tassos Papadopoulos supporters cast their vote will be the decisive element in the second round between Ioannis Kasoulides – a liberal, and a communist, Demetris Christofias.
The President who is elected on 24th February next will be sworn in four days later on 28th February.
Results of the 1st Round of the Presidential election on 17th February 2008 in Cyprus
Turn out: 89.42% (it is obligatory to vote in Cyprus)