New centrist offer Cyprus hope of resolving tensions
The modern day political icons of Cyprus hardly vary, be the politician communist, socialist, moderate, or liberal: a huge poster of the late Archbishop Makarios, the Cypriot flag (orange-colored island on field of white over crossed boughs), the blue and white Greek national colors, and slogans of democracy.
These represent the givens of Cypriot politics -- Makarios, who is revered as almost a saint and who dominated Cypriot life for almost two decades; cultural-linguistic ties to Greece; the Hellenistic ideal of democracy; and the independent national course on which the Cypriot republic has been try to stay.
Besides the ubiquitous coffee shop klatches of men talking politics hours on end, this spring the hotel auditoriums, movie houses, cafe's, and village squares have been jammed with Cypriots listening to driving Greek guitar music and rousing speeches by politicians preparing for parliamentary elections this spring and positioning themselves for the presidential race in two years.
Because of centuries of colonization, followed by the 17year unchallenged reign of Makarios (except for a brief period during a coup attempt in 1974), fomunist, socialist, moderate, or liberal: a huge poster of the late Archbishop Makarios, the Cypriot flag (orange-colored island on field of white over crossed bllowed by an uncontested election in 1978, Cyprus really does not have a modern democratic tradition. The election this spring, Cypriots promise. will be the oughs), the blue and white Greek national colors, and slogans of democracy.
These represent the givens of Cypriot politics -Makarios, who is revered as almosfirst time voters (who must vote under penalty of law) have a wide choice of parties and candidates far enough removed from the Makarios era to offer distinct at a saint and who dominated Cypriot life for almost two decades: cultural-linguistic ties to Greece: the Hellenistic ideal of democracy; and the independent natlternatives.
And like spring flowers on the Cypriot plain, political parties are popping up left, right -but mostly center.
In Nicosia, for instance, the foioiial course on which the Cypriot republic has been trying to stay.
Besides the ubiquitous coffee-shop klatches of men talking politics hours on end, this sprrmation of the New Democratic Party in late January under parliamentary President Alecos Michaelides followed by only one week formation of the Center Union Paring the hotel auditoriums, movie houses, cafes. and village squares have been jty under Tassos Papadopoulos. The two cover similar ground -center, slightly ammed with Cypriots listening to driving Greek guitar music and rousing speeches by politicians preparing for parliamentary elections this spring and positioninright, pro-Western.
But they, in turn, face the established centrist Democratic Party (DIKO) of President Spiros Kyprianou, from which they split. They also g themselves for the presidential race in two years. share territory with the increasingly powerful rightist (but also centrist) Democratic Rally Party (DISI) of Glafkos Clerides.
Just to the left of center is the Pan-Cyprian Front for Change (PANE) under Chrisotomos Sofianos, then the Socialist Union of the Democratic Center (EDEK) under Vassos Lyssarides, and finally the communist Progressive Party of Workers (AKEL) under Ezekias Papaioanou.
All are on an island with a Greek Cypriot population of less than 500,000. which seems to lend credence to the pundit's saying, "five Greeks, six parties."
In the 35-member House of Representatives (actually 50member, but 15 seats are reserved for Turkish Cypriots, not participating). AKEL and DIKO are strongest. These two plus EDEK make up the current ruling coalition. At the popular level, however, DISI and AKEL now seem to have the staunchest supporters , with both able to draw an estimated 30 percent of the voters. Then comes DIKO with about 12 percent. EDEE, PANE, New Democratic, and Center Union seem to be able to attract about equal percentages.
Most Cypriot political watchers believe the latter two centrist parties will eventually merge. The battle over the center is interesting in this personality-dominated political scene because the New Democrats and Center Unionists say they stand for sets of principles rather than serve as vehicles for charismatic leaders. If and when a candidate from either party is elected president, he must relinquish control of tne party, thereby ensuring that the party continues as a political mechanism even after the leader is gone.
The key political issues on the island always start with the overall Greek-Turk question. This is far and away the biggest concern of Cypriots, whose newspapers and television news shows press the issue unceasingly. Secondary but important issues are the heavily taxed economy, the status of the three sovereign British military facilities on the island, and Cypriot policy in the Middle East.
Faced with the immense task of following the Makarios act, Mr. Kyprianou has been losing popularity recently. Because of Mr. Clerides's longstanding contacts with Turkish leader Rauf Denktash, DISI, Western sources believe, seems to offer hope for a breakthrough in the intercommunal dialog.
But the new center parties bear watching since they appeal to middle-of-the-road professionals and offer a possible long-term mechanism to perpetuate democracy and independence. There is a constant danger, however, that with too, fractured a middle ground, the left -always strong and attractive to Cypriots -could increase its power.