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Post Whither Cyprus? The Greek Perspective
Created by John Eipper on 05/28/17 5:26 AM

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Whither Cyprus? The Greek Perspective (Yusuf Kanli, Turkey, 05/28/17 5:26 am)

John Eipper has asked a very important set of questions: "Wouldn't Greece, the sponsor of Southern Cyprus, be adamantly against any formal recognition of the Turkish North?" And: "What is Alexis Tsipras's position on the 'Cyprus Problem'"?

Since the July 15, 1974 Athens-engineered coup against Archbishop Makarios, the relationship between Athens and Nicosia has changed a lot. Acting with the guilt of being the party which engineered the coup that triggered the July 20, 1974 Turkish intervention and subsequent de facto partition of the island, it has no longer been the "Greece decides, Greek Cypriots comply" relationship of the 1960s and '70s. In the North, the "Turkey decides Turkish Cypriots comply" relationship remains intact or even might have been consolidated. Of course Greece has leverage over Greek Cypriot decision-making, but Greek Cypriots also have a not insignificant influence on Greek decision-making regarding Cyprus or Turkey affairs.

Thus, what would Tsipras want on Cyprus? He could not dare to talk against what the political mechanism in Southern Cyprus produces. The presidential elections in Greek Cyprus are ever more interesting for various reasons, particularly from the perspective that Cyprus is a "Presidential Republic," where the president is in essence the almost absolute ruler, much more akin to a monarch than to an elected president of a parliamentary democracy.

Presidential elections are always a big deal. Of course, the system was in place in 1960 when the bi-communal Republic of Cyprus came into being with Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots participating. This system has continued to this date; however, since the 1964 ouster by force of the Turkish Cypriot partner, only the Greek Cypriots have been running the government.

Three camps of presidential election hopefuls have already formed. One is the Democratic Rally Party (DISI) supporting the incumbent president (and its former leader), Nicos Anastasiades. The second is a grouping of three center-right parties which joined together and expressed support for Democratic Party (DIKO) leader Nikolas Papadopoulos (he is the son of former EOKA member and former President, the late Tassos Papadopoulos). Finally, the traditional communist party of Cyprus, the Progressive Party of Working People (AKEL), is still trying to decide who to support in a debate that is becoming a veritable Rubik's Cube, with a maze of agonizing options and probabilities of success and failure.

Anastasiades has already been campaigning for re-election for months, using and even fabricating events and "progress" in the ongoing Cyprus talks by turning the Cyprus problem into his political weapon. No wonder Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (KKTC) President Mustafa Akıncı has been furious with him for some time and has increasingly lost all faith in him.

Under the current political climate in southern Cyprus, due to a radical erosion of confidence in his capability to deliver any sort of remedy to any of the daunting tasks faced by Greek Cypriots, Anastasiades has very little prospect of re-election. Definitely, even if he scores a miraculous electoral success no one anticipates, he is definitely not the one who might solve the Cyprus problem.

At 15 percent support, DIKO's Papadopoulos has two positives in his favor, with all else being negative: His last name and pockets deep enough to finance his campaign, which he has started already ahead of the rest. The Papadopoulos family, through its Leventis relationship as the owner of Coca-Cola in Nigeria, Greece and other countries, is said to be pocketing no less than 130 million euros every year through share dividends.

Even if Papadopoulos pockets a "mere" 15 million every year, he has amassed a fortune large enough to run in many campaigns. His opponents cannot match this. A case in point is his alliance with EDEK, which sits at 4.8 percent and is a fervent supporter of his drive to be president. Papadopoulos simply paid EDEK's debts totaling 880,000 euros and brought them on board.

The new "Solidarity" party, which has 4.5 percent support and which is headed by Eleni Theocharous, is also on board with Nikolas to both share in the spoils of a possible victory and cause maximum damage to her archenemy, Anastasiades.

The Green Party is cunningly postponing any decision on who to join until October.

Giorgos Lillikas (Citizens' Alliance, at 5 percent) has been wooing AKEL for months but knowing him well (he started his career with them!), AKEL does not trust him because of his quasi-nationalist positions away from the bi-zonal, bi-communal federation being discussed for 40 years. He is running as an independent, aiming to stretch the dilemma for AKEL as much as possible. Even if he fails to be chosen by them, he is already looking at the day after the elections, banking on the possibility that Anastasiades' possible re-election would allow him to harvest great numbers of disenchanted voters from both AKEL and the center parties' alliance.

AKEL made a mess of the last presidential elections when it chose a research doctor who specializes in testing laboratory rats, parading him around as an "independent" against Anastasiades. The latter duly won the runoff election hands down, landing him in the president's seat when even Anastasiades himself never believed he would become president.

AKEL's choice and campaign were a sheer disaster in all respects, presenting a case study on how to lose an election. After that botched election, AKEL never recovered. It received another jolt last year, with its very poor results in the parliamentary elections.

Its current choice list has three names, a former Coca-Cola executive, Mike Spanos (after his marriage to the daughter of Coca-Cola's owner!), who has no affiliation with anything an AKEL voter could identify with; Kikis Kazamias, an amiable, soft-spoken communist who is invoking health problems in order to avoid his selection amid the last election's failed bid; as well as Dr. Stavros Malas. Spanos was the AKEL secretary general's personal choice.

Andros Kyprianou, AKEL's chief, stuck with him until the end in 2013 and lost the election, with AKEL seeing its electoral share dipping way below its regular scores of 30 percent or more. AKEL's chief already seems to have chosen the newcomer Spanos, but it is almost impossible that he will manage to obtain all the AKEL votes, as well as lure votes from other parties to clinch the presidency.

Recent reports reveal that AKEL is beginning to consider the most experienced diplomat/politician, George Iacovou, who fulfills the party's own guidelines of ability, morality, experience, vast global contacts at the highest level and successful collaboration with AKEL in the past. Iacovou seems to be the only rational choice if AKEL really wishes to unseat Anastasiades. But in the event of failure, Kyprianou should be ready to assume responsibility for a new thunderous defeat and resign.

Rumors have it that the Anastasiades camp ran some polls and surveys a few months ago, with him running against three alternative candidates--i.e., Papadopoulos, Spanos and Iacovou. Iacovou was seen to be the only one who could beat him to the presidency, proving that voters are fed up with unqualified presidential candidates being shoved down their throats by political parties who have failed to rise to the current circumstances of the Cyprus negotiations that are dead in the water--even if Anastasiades keeps coming back with ludicrous and unacceptable "breakthrough proposals" to Akıncı.

The time for experiments has come to an end for AKEL and its leadership. Another defeat may firmly place AKEL on the path to becoming Cyprus' version of mainland Greece's PASOK, which descended from the heights of government to an almost insignificant political party at about only 5 percent.

It is decision time in the Greek Cypriot community, who have been showing their frustration and agony with presidential candidates who have been cooked up by the parties and their own personal agendas.

AKEL's peculiar new experiments are, again, impressive and perhaps a sign of its own gradual, steady decline.
Ultimately, this will directly hurt the probability of reaching a solution to the Cyprus problem, forcing Turkey and Turkish Cypriots to pursue a much-awaited and much-speculated Plan B. Will this be be annexation of northern Cyprus by Turkey? Or, will it be the long-awaited invigorated Turkish effort to get the Turkish Cypriot state recognized at least by some brotherly Muslim states?

JE comments:  Many thanks to Yusuf Kanli for this thoughtful and detailed explanation.  A Turkish annexation of Northern Cyprus would assuredly ruffle feathers in the South and in Greece, but might Erdogan be willing to take the gamble?  Erdogan's frenemy in Russia, Putin, gobbled up Crimea and got away with it.

Yusuf:  Is the Turkish part of the island largely in favor of annexation?

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  • Turkish Cypriots' Views on Annexation (Yusuf Kanli, Turkey 05/29/17 5:01 AM)
    Just a short note in response to John E's question.

    Turkish Cypriots are categorically against annexation. Yet due to the large number of Turkish mainland settlers, the demography has changed a lot (it is now almost 50/50), and if such an issue is ever put to a vote, the outcome could go either way.

    JE comments:  Thank you, Yusuf!  Have officials in the North encouraged the migration of Turks from the mainland, or is the impulse coming from the mainland government itself?

    WAISer Marga Jann has spent time in Northern Cyprus.  I hope she'll send a comment.  Meanwhile, please see Marga's excellent essay, Challenges and Recommendations for "Visitors" Teaching Design in the Developing World towards Sustainable Equitable Futures:  Four Divided Nations, at the WAIS Publications page:


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