Opposition party wins Cyprus poll

Parliamentary Elections in Cyprus don`t result in change of government.

Updated: May 23, 2011, 13:11 PM IST

Nicosia: Rightist opposition party DISY narrowly won Cyprus` tightly-contested Parliamentary Elections on Sunday, handing defeat to the governing AKEL party, final results show.

Official results showed that DISY got 34.27 percent or 1.6 percent more than its traditional rival left-wing AKEL, a party which has been led by President Dimitris Christofias for two decades until he resigned his post in 2008.

Cyprus is governed under a presidential system, meaning that Parliamentary Elections don`t result in change of government.

"Citizens are asking us to work together because economic and social problems are great and given that the Cyprus issue is now at a difficult juncture," DISY leader Nicos Anastasiades told supporters at a victory rally.

DISY`s narrow victory margin and the fact that AKEL managed to nudge its overall support numbers up by more than a percentage point over the previous poll suggests that Christofias continues to enjoy broad public support for his handling of the peace talks, said political analyst Tim Potier.

"It`s a win-win situation for all concerned, they can all be satisfied with the result," Potier said.

Cyprus was divided into a Greek Cypriot south and a Turkish Cypriot north in 1974 when Turkey invaded after a coup by supporters with Greece. The island joined the European Union in 2004, but only the internationally recognized south enjoys membership benefits.

Numerous United Nations-mediated attempts at reunification since then have failed and the latest round of talks that Christofias launched with leftist Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat in 2008 have produced little in the way of real progress after Talat was swept from power by right-wing rival Dervis Eroglu last year.

Christofias` hawkish detractors have accused him of making too many concessions in the talks without getting much in return, but Potier said the election outcome rested more on voters` concern over the continuing economic crisis and its impact on the Cypriot economy.

Christofias has come under heavy criticism for not doing enough to curb government spending and to tackle high unemployment levels.

Although fiercely critical of Christofias` fiscal policies, DISY avoided attacking him on his peace talks line so as not to signal that Greek Cypriots are drifting away from a peace deal based on power-sharing under a federal roof, said Potier.

Despite its loss, AKEL party chief Andros Kyprianou hailed the result as success since ruling parties in other European countries have suffered huge election losses.

"We have proven that AKEL remains strong, a powerful force for the people," Kyprianou told supporters.

Some 530,000 voters in the south were eligible to cast their ballots, but these elections was marked by an unusually low turnout for Cyprus standards of around 80 percent - 9 percent lower than the previous poll.

Kyprianou said his party would evaluate the reasons for the low turnout that may have cost his party the win.

Bureau Report