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By Peter Stevenson MEMBERS of Volunteer Doctors Cyprus have treated around 350 people at their free clinic in Nicosia since it opened three months ago, while two more, one in Paphos and one in Polis are due to open today. Limassol also has a free clinic, which was opened only last month, and plans have been drawn ...
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SOME 10 days ago, foreign minister Ioannis Kasoulides raised expectations by announcing the possibility of a deal with Turkey for the opening of the fenced off area of Famagusta, for the return of its inhabitants. In exchange the Cyprus government would agree to the opening of Tymbou airport to direct flights. ...
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Cyprus Internet Directory [ Editorial: Voters face a clear choice today ]

Editorial: Voters face a clear choice today

THE TIGHTEST election race since the establishment of the Republic will be held today, with all three candidates having equal chances of making it to next Sunday’s run-off. Never before have we been faced with a presidential election marked by such a degree of uncertainty.

It is ironic that, despite the record number of opinion polls carried out in the run-up, we are none the wiser about which candidate will be eliminated from the contest tonight. No pollster would be willing to stake his or her reputation on making a prediction, aware that the difference separating the first from the third candidate in all the latest polls was within the margin of error, which meant it could be overturned. Matters are further complicated by the arrival from abroad of some 22,000 Cypriots who could swing the result in any direction.

Suddenly, President Papadopoulos’ consistent lead in the opinion polls is of little value. The public perception of the incumbent as the eventual winner, which always attracts floating voters, has been dented by the talk of a possible second-round deal between the two biggest parties, AKEL and DISY, in the event that Papadopoulos makes it to the run-off. Strangely, it was the Papadopoulos camp which gave substance to the speculation by turning it into a major campaign issue in the last week.

Once this happened, the two parties had to acknowledge it as a possibility.

This was a welcome development because it brings home what is at stake in this election and how much importance AKEL and DISY attach to it – enough importance to put aside their ideological differences and 30 years of bitter hostility towards each other and seriously to entertain the idea of an electoral pact. At stake is the long-term future of Cyprus – will we work for reunification or will we allow partition to become permanent? The candidates of the two big parties, Ioannis Kasoulides and Demetris Christofias, have made it crystal clear that they are committed to working for a settlement, aware that there may still be one last opportunity to prevent partition.

Papadopoulos on the other hand, has been seeking re-election on the grounds that he ‘saved’ Cyprus from a bad settlement in 2004 and is the most suitable person to do so again in the future, constantly questioning his rivals’ ability to ‘resist’ foreign pressure for a deal with the Turkish Cypriots. But any achievable settlement (not in the realm of wishful thinking) would be bad for Papadopoulos, which would mean his re-election would inexorably lead to partition.

His record in the last five years speaks for itself – he made no attempt to negotiate any improvements in the Annan plan before the referendum, he undertook no meaningful initiative for a resumption of talks, obdurately refused to meet Mehmet Ali Talat until a few months before the elections, and ensured the July 8 agreement, which he peddles as his greatest achievement, went nowhere. Worst of all, his government actively encouraged the re-kindling of the old suspicions and hostility between the two communities. Under the circumstances, his election promise to secure a federal settlement “with the right content”, is rather difficult to believe. This was after all the man who was pledging, night and day, to work for a settlement based on the Annan plan before the last elections.

In short, voters today are faced with two choices. A vote for Papadopoulos would be support for the maintenance of the status quo, which would inevitably lead to permanent partition. A vote for Christofias or Kasoulides, in contrast, would be backing for one last attempt at finding a settlement and re-uniting Cyprus, although success is not guaranteed. At least we can be sure that their commitment is genuine – not dictated by electoral considerations – and that either would give it his best shot if elected.

This is after all what the majority of the voters want if their voting preferences are anything to go by. The 60 per cent-plus combined share of the vote that opinion polls give to Christofias and Kasoulides, suggests that the majority of Greek Cypriots still support re-unification in some form. Whether support for a settlement is large enough to edge Papadopoulos out of next Sunday’s run-off we shall know tonight.



(Source: Cyprus Mail)





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