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Sunday, February 8, 1998 Published at 15:37 GMT


Voting ends in Cyprus presidential elections
image: [ Vote for me! ]
Vote for me!

Greek Cypriots have been voting in presidential elections dominated by the issue of reunification.

Polling stations have closed and final results are expected later on Sunday, but neither of the main two candidates is expected to win outright.

The incumbent, Glafcos Clerides, says that -- at the age of 78 -- his long experience of negotiations with Turkish Cyprus makes him the only candidate capapable of reaching a settlement in the reunification talks due to resume next month.

His main rival, George Iakovou, says Mr Clerides is too old and ineffective.

Election background

What hopes are there for peace? Chris Drake reports (1'35")
Commentators hope that the newly elected president will have a strong mandate and the political will to boost the Cyprus peace talks.

But the election has also been fought on the strength of candidates' commitment to build up the republic's military defences. The two front-runners are both committed to the deployment of Russian anti-aircraft missiles as a defence against the Turkish Cypriot north of the island.

[ image: President Clerides - hanging on by a thread]
President Clerides - hanging on by a thread
There are 6 candidates standing in the elections - including the current president, Glafcos Clerides. The last presidential elections were in February 1993, when Mr Clerides defeated then-president George Vassiliou by a margin of less than 0.5%.

If no candidate wins more than 50% of the vote, there will be a run-off election between the two front-runners on February 15.

According to the constitution of the Cypriot government, only members of the Greek Cypriot community can vote in presidential elections. Voting is compulsory for citizens over the age of 18.

The Candidates

The two front-runners are:

  • Glafcos Clerides, 79, is the current president. He is right-wing and represents the Democratic Rally (DISY).

  • George Iakovou, 59, is the former Greek Cypriot foreign minister. He is supported by the Communist party, AKEL, and the Democratic party, DIKO. Mr Iakovou has been stressing the age gap in his campaign and has used the slogan: "I want a young president".

Both support the accession of Cyprus to the European Union, for which talks are scheduled to begin in April 1998.

[ image: George Iakovou gained popularity when he committed himself to militarisation]
George Iakovou gained popularity when he committed himself to militarisation
They also say that they support a rapprochement with the Turkish Cypriot community and seek a settlement based on UN proposals.

The international community has stepped up pressure for a peace plan so that Cyprus can join the EU as a unified, federal state.

But both front-runners also support deployment of Russian anti-aircraft missiles, which are expected to be delivered by the end of summer.

A January 1998 poll showed the two men running neck and neck.

The other candidates, who are lagging far behind in the polls, are:

  • George Vassiliou, is the former president (1988 to 1993). He was criticised for making concessions to the Turkish Cypriot side when he was defeated five years ago.

  • Dr Vassos Lyssarides, is the Socialist Party leader (EDEK) who supports an independent, non-aligned, de-militarised Cyprus. He also advocates the establishment of a socialist structure.

  • Nicos S Koutsou, is the president of New Horizons, a political party founded in February 1996. He supports settlement of the Cyprus problem through political means and the establishment of a non-federal unitary state with single sovereignty throughout the whole territory of the island.

  • Nicos Rolandis, is chairman of the Liberal Party. He supports settling the Cyprus problem by following UN resolutions.

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  Internet Links

Government of the Republic of Cyprus

The Presidential Elections - government website

Glafcos Clerides

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