Back to the Future

The question of the first round of Cyprus's Presidential elections was not about who would come first, but second. There was no doubt that Nikos Christodoulides would secure the majority of the votes. What was not certain at all was who else would make it to the next round. However, this would be the determining factor for the future of Cyprus's overall political stage, beyond the current elections. AKEL (Progressive Party of Working People) and its leadership were saved, at least temporarily, but this was not the case for DISY (Democratic Rally party) and its president, who suffered a resounding defeat. In all probability, the leader of any defeated party would be formally or substantially rebuked, and it appears that this is what will happen to Averof Neophytou.

It is not clear what political agreements and dealings will be attempted both within DISY and between the party and Mr.Christodoulides before the runoff. What is more, not a single person has been publicly nominated or suggested for staffing any government that will come to be established. Beyond his general comments concerning a broader-based government, Mr. Christodoulides, if elected, shall have to bring the various different parties that supported him together, and it will be very interesting to see what kind of Council of Ministers will emerge. If he is eventually elected and established, it is likely that, over time, we will experience a transformation of the political stage, involving the claim of the leadership of DISY, the incorporation or dissolution of other parties and, ultimately, the creation of a united (centre) right front. For its part, AKEL, in order to secure its political survival and presence, shall have to clarify its identity issues and succeed in convincing society that it is a modern party with realistic positions.

Three further elements fit into the puzzle of the conclusions drawn from the first round of the elections: the low turnout; the consolidation of the far right's presence in politics; and the extremely low performance even of those independent candidates who, despite not being supported by any party, had presented substantial political programmes and had demonstrated a strong political presence and a robust political discourse. It appears that the party system, even somewhat distorted, still holds good.

Regarding Cyprus's national issue, the forthcoming government will be called upon to handle it in the most difficult phase of its modern history, since it is on the brink of its definite end: the talks collapsed and no progress has been made over the last six years; international circumstances are unfavourable; local and international burdens are piling up; and the overall climate is constantly and rapidly worsening. It will be interesting to see what route will be followed by the next government and, of course, by Mr. Christodoulides, if elected, and what substantial actions he will take, if he is able and if he so wishes, beyond the communication level, on which he outperformed the other candidates in the run-up to the elections. And how wonderful it would be if the largest parties collaborated for the first time in their history, at least on this matter. Perhaps then, we would see some light at the end of the tunnel.