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Cyprus Election Spells Trouble for Turkish EU Entry

DW staff (win)
May 22, 2006

Voters in Cyprus have backed the ruling coalition in a parliamentary election, endorsing leaders who oppose efforts to re-unite Greek Cypriots with the island's Turkish north.

Cypriot President Tassos Papadopoulos emerged as the winner from Sunday's electionImage: AP

President Tassos Papadopoulos' DIKO party and its communist allies enjoyed overwhelming support at the polls. The result is the latest setback to the United Nations plan to re-unify the island, and could even undermine Turkish efforts to join the European Union.

Half a million Greek Cypriots took to the polls to elect 56 representatives. It was their first chance to pick MPs since a referendum on reunification was rejected in 2004. It was also the first time in decades that some 270 of the ethnic Turks living in the Greek-held part of Cyprus were allowed to vote and contest the election.

Wahlen in Zypern
Supporters of communistic party AKEL celebrating their party's victoryImage: AP

Results show the governing coalition, which ran on an anti-reunification platform, gained support at the polls. President Tassos Papadopoulos' DIKO party won 18 percent of the vote -- up 3 percent on its last showing -- while his allies from the communist AKEL party won 31 percent. The pro-reunification opposition party, the DISY, lost ground to come a close second with 30 percent of the vote.

UN proposal doomed?

Greek and Turkish Cypriots have lived divided since Turkey invaded Cyprus's north in 1974 in response to a brief Greek-inspired coup. Decades of international efforts to re-unite the island have failed.

Political analysts say the latest vote shows international mediators will have a hard time trying to re-impose the UN settlement proposals, which had called for large degrees of power-sharing between the two sides.

They also say the results have set the stage for a diplomatic stand-off between Cyprus and Turkey in Brussels later this year.

Threatening to veto Turkey

Demonstration in Nordzypern für Wiedervereinigung
Unlike Greek Cypriots, Turkish cypriots have backed unification of the islandImage: AP

Cyprus, represented in the EU only by its internationally recognized Greek Cypriot government, does not have any diplomatic ties with Ankara, which is keen to join the European bloc.

Papadopoulos has warned that Cyprus could veto Turkey's bid to join the EU if Ankara doesn't comply with European commitments to open its ports and airports to Cypriot traffic by the end of this year.

But Turkey insists that Cypriot access to its harbors will remain restricted until the Greek Cypriot government ends the political isolation of the island's Turkish north.