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Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English, 98-02-15

Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: The Cyprus Mail at <http://www.cynews.com/>


Sunday, February 15, 1998

CONTENTS

  • [01] Election 98: the nation decides
  • [02] Marked differences in regional voting trends
  • [03] Election: all bets are off
  • [04] Crisis in the Gulf: will Cyprus tourism be spared this time?
  • [05] Airline shoots down Diko's bias claim
  • [06] Galanos 'racism' denied
  • [07] Rubin stresses US resolve on Cyprus
  • [08] Fourth arrest in 2.5m drugs bust
  • [09] Arson suspected in Aeolos fire

  • [01] Election 98: the nation decides

    By Martin Hellicar

    SOME 450,000 voters go to the polls today to choose between incumbent Glafcos Clerides and challenger George Iacovou for next President of Cyprus.

    The name of the victor of the second round face-off is expected to be known by around 11 tonight.

    The run-off - forced by a deadlocked first round last Sunday - is expected to be a close contest with Clerides having, on paper, a slight advantage over Iacovou.

    Iacovou is backed by communist Akel and centre-right Diko, while Clerides has right-wing Disy and four of the five defeated first round candidates behind him.

    Edek, whose leader Vassos Lyssarides finished third with an impressive 10.6 per cent in last Sunday's first round, threw the race wide open on Friday by deciding to support neither candidate in today's second ballot.

    Iacovou secured 40.6 per cent of the vote in round one and Clerides 40.1. Diko rebel Alexis Galanos, who polled four per cent last Sunday, George Vassiliou, who garnered three per cent, and Nicos Rolandis and Nicos Koutsou with 0.8 and 0.9 per cent respectively are backing the incumbent for the face-off.

    If these four beaten candidates' voters follow their lead and the two front- runners maintain their first round support, then Clerides can count on 48.8 per cent of the vote today. This would mean he would only need about 12 per cent of the Edek vote (1.21 per cent of the total vote) to secure victory.

    In 1993, Clerides beat the then President Vassiliou by just 2,174 votes.

    Citing this bitter defeat for Vassiliou, the Iacovou camp has claimed the former president's voters will ignore his prompting and back Iacovou today. Iacovou's team also claims Diko will unite behind the challenger in round two, with Galanos losing the 'protest' Diko votes he gained last Sunday. Galanos stood as a candidate for Diko voters unhappy with the official decision to back Iacovou.

    Iacovou's campaign team has touted the pretender as the "dynamic" and young option, playing on the 19-year age gap between him and Clerides.

    Clerides' campaign has focused on casting the 78-year-old incumbent as holder of the key to a Cyprus settlement and EU accession. In his campaign speeches, Clerides has repeatedly warned against the "dangerous experimentation" of backing his rival.

    Both hopefuls have promised to deliver multi-party governments if elected.

    A blanket ban on electioneering imposed at midnight on Friday meant all quiet on the campaign front yesterday.

    Ninety-two per cent of the 446,796 registered voters cast their ballots last Sunday, but an even larger turn-out is expected today, with parties chartering flights from London, Athens and Salonica all week to bring in voters from abroad.

    The 1,023 polling centres island-wide open at 7am and close at 5pm, with a one-hour break from midday to 1pm.

    According to electoral services, the first results are expected to come in from Paphos villages at around 7pm and the final result will be known by 11pm. The winner will be announced at Nicosia's Eleftheria stadium at around midnight.

    [02] Marked differences in regional voting trends

    By Martin Hellicar

    THE FIRST results to be announced after today's second round of presidential elections are likely to favour challenger George Iacovou. But the first final district results will probably show a strong lead for incumbent Glafcos Clerides.

    These predictions are based not on opinion polls but on marked variations in regional voting preferences, and the order in which results from the various polling stations are expected to come in.

    In last Sunday's first round, the first result came from the Paphos district hamlet of Dhimia, with just 69 voters. Dhimia, or one of the other small Paphos villages, are again odds-on favourites to produce the first results at around 7pm today.

    With the Paphos district being a traditional Diko stronghold, Iacovou, who enjoys the backing of the centre-right party and communist Akel, is likely to be cheered by the first result.

    But by the time the first final district results come in, it should be Clerides' turn to smile.

    Famagusta, where the incumbent's main backers right-wing Disy are strong and Diko weak, is tipped to be the first to register its final results, as it was in round one.

    Akel is not strong in Paphos - in the 1996 parliamentary elections it polled only 21 per cent, well below its national average of 33 per cent - but this should be compensated for by Diko's strength. Even with the Diko vote split by rebel candidate Alexis Galanos, this was borne out in Sunday's first round figures. Iacovou polled 40.3 per cent overall for the district, beating Clerides by 8.5 percentage points, the largest margin in the challenger's favour in any district. Thirty-nine Dhimia voters put their cross under Iacovou's name.

    But this margin pales when compared with the 15.5 per cent Clerides routed Iacovou by in the Famagusta district last Sunday.

    In the 1996 parliamentary elections, Disy polled 39 per cent - five percentage points more than its national average - in the semi-occupied district. But with Akel also strong in the district - they got 37 per cent in 1996 - it is the weakness of Diko that explains why Clerides got his best 'haul', an impressive 51.9 per cent of the vote, from Famagusta on Sunday. In 1996, Diko garnered a miserable 11 per cent - more than five percentage points below its national average - from Famagusta.

    Famagusta was the only district to give more than half its votes to a single candidate.

    Differences in voting tendencies are less pronounced in the Limassol, Larnaca and Nicosia districts.

    The results for these three districts are harder to call, especially when so little separates the two contenders overall - they both polled a fraction over 40 per cent in round one. Clerides is likely to edge it in Nicosia, a bastion of Disy support, while Iacovou is the favourite in Limassol and, to a lesser extent, in Larnaca.

    Akel and Diko both enjoy steady support in both coastal districts.

    [03] Election: all bets are off

    ELECTION fever is reportedly causing a drop in the earnings of the island's betting shops.

    According to betting agency Opap spokesman Johnny Kyprou, even the chance of raking in millions is failing to do the trick with clients bitten by the election bug.

    He added that the demand for Joker and Lotto sweepstakes had been consistently below expectations during the lead-up to the first and second rounds of presidential elections.

    Those playing the Joker jackpot this week could win 1,500,000, while Lotto and Proto jackpot winners have the chance to scoop 800,000 and 340,000 respectively.

    [04] Crisis in the Gulf: will Cyprus tourism be spared this time?

    By Hamza Hendawi

    A BRIEF aerial bombardment of Iraq by the United States and its allies will probably not have a significant impact on tourism in Cyprus, but a serious escalation of that widely anticipated conflict might spell doom for the island's vital industry.

    As Washington steps up pressure on Iraq to allow UN arms inspectors full access to suspected sites of mass-destruction weapons or face military strikes, there are virtually no signs to speak of to suggest that a crisis in the Cypriot tourism industry is lurking around the corner.

    There are, however, signs that the industry's major players are closely monitoring the situation in the Gulf with some alarm. There is also evidence that some of them would rather not talk about it - at least not in public.

    Vivid memories remain of the 1990-91 Gulf crisis over Kuwait and its disastrous impact on tourism in Cyprus, which currently accounts for nearly 20 per cent of gross domestic product.

    Tourism is also the country's largest single employer with revenues of 825 million in 1997, a year which witnessed an increase of five per cent in arrivals - 2.06 million in total. A further increase is expected in 1998, but no forecasts have yet been issued.

    "The 1991 experience was different," said Zacharias Ioannides, who heads the powerful Hoteliers' Association. "That experience was promptly rectified by a campaign that highlighted to Europeans that Cyprus was quite a distance away from the Gulf battlefields."

    "I don't think that we should make any fuss about it this time round," he cautioned.

    A total of 1.38 million tourists came to Cyprus in 1991, the year in which a US-led international force waged war to rid Kuwait of a seven-month Iraqi occupation after months of tension and a massive military build-up in the Gulf. This total was down by nearly 200,000 from 1990. The decline represented the first year-on-year drop in the number of tourists coming here since 1980.

    A more realistic figure of the 1991 drop is perhaps close to 500,000, which includes an additional 300,000 visitors representing the projected annual increase in arrivals.

    The memories of 1991 have obviously remained a source of pain.

    "There will be no effect whatsoever - because Cyprus is where it is and Iraq is where it is," replied Panikos Apeyitos, president of the Association of Cyprus Travel Agents when asked whether tourism in Cyprus could be affected by renewed hostilities in the Gulf.

    Not everyone agrees.

    "The Japanese have already issued a travel advisory for countries of the Middle East and the Gulf. It does not include Cyprus, but I am sure it will have a knock-on effect," said Katy Turner, editor of Travel Trade Gazette, Middle East &amp; North Africa.

    "Hoteliers are concerned," she added.

    "My opinion is that we'll definitely face a similar situation, but that will depend on how long the hostilities continue," said Christos Christou, general-manager for tourism in Amathus, one of the island's biggest tour operators.

    But he sought to dismiss any unjustified doomsday scenarios.

    "Nothing happened in 1996. It all happened too quickly," he said, referring to US strikes in September that year against military sites in Iraq to punish Saddam Hussein for sending his army into a Western-protected enclave for Kurds in northern Iraq to support one Kurdish faction against another.

    Noel Josephides, managing-director of the London-based Sunvil Holidays, said an escalation in the conflict will probably affect Cyprus, but he added that the countries already suffering from the present tension were Iraq's neighbour Jordan, together with Israel and Lebanon.

    "The tension hasn't really had any effect on Cyprus so far. There might have been one or two cancellations, but nothing else," he said.

    [05] Airline shoots down Diko's bias claim

    CYPRUS Airways yesterday denied allegations that the airline was biased towards the pro-Clerides Disy party - an accusation made by Spyros Kyprianou's Diko party.

    On Friday the Diko youth-wing claimed the national carrier had become part of President Glafcos Clerides' campaign team, with Disy members being given priority in securing seats on flights in the lead-up to the elections.

    Cyprus Airways spokesman Tassos Angelis said yesterday the airline merely co-ordinated flights with bookings made by the different political parties' travel agencies, and was not itself responsible for the issuing of tickets.

    The Diko accusation focused on flight CY313 from Athens which arrived in Larnaca on Friday with 30 empty seats, despite the huge demand for places.

    Angelis countered that if vacancies existed on certain flights then the airline itself had made a loss, and added that "in such a huge operation there are always some problems".

    Right-wing Diko has joined forces with left-wing Akel to supporting nominally independent candidate George Iacovou, a former foreign minister, in the presidential elections.

    Given that Iacovou secured a mere 0.5 per cent lead over Clerides in the first round of elections, rival camps in today's presidential run-off are still draining party coffers to fly in overseas Cypriots to vote.

    Cyprus Airways has laid on 35 extra return flights from London, Athens and Salonica, and will have brought some 10,000 people to the island to vote.

    In a separate statement made yesterday, Diko complained of what it called "pressure exerted by senior police officials on subordinates" to vote for Clerides.

    [06] Galanos 'racism' denied

    A SPOKESMAN for rebel Diko candidate Alexis Galanos has denied that he made a racist comment, after complaints were made by South African Cypriots.

    In an aside during a news conference on Wednesday, Galanos had said Diko leader Spyros Kyprianou underestimated the common sense of the Cypriot electorate, believing them to be like the 'kaffir' natives of Africa.

    Galanos' spokesman Haris Kyriakides said yesterday the comment had been off- the-cuff and not intended to offend anyone.

    "It was just a misunderstanding," he said, adding that the expression was commonly used in political rhetoric to denote gullibility.

    Galanos had only wanted to dismiss claims by Kyprianou that first round voters who had favoured Galanos would vote for George Iacovou in the second round, Kyriakides said.

    Galanos and Kyprianou have been at daggers drawn since Galanos publicly criticised the centre-right Diko leadership for joining Communist Akel in supporting nominally independent George Iacovou in the presidential race.

    Tensions further increased when Galanos announced his own candidacy in protest, garnering 4 per cent of party votes in the first round of elections last Sunday.

    The rebel Diko member has since pledged his votes to President Glafcos Clerides in today's final ballot.

    [07] Rubin stresses US resolve on Cyprus

    By Aline Davidian

    U.S. STATE Department spokesman James Rubin has reiterated Washington's resolve to push for a Cyprus solution after the presidential elections on the island.

    He was elaborating on statements made by Secretary of State Madeleine Albright to the House of Representatives Foreign Relations Committee, in which she referred to US expectations for the restart of settlement talks under United Nations auspices after the elections.

    Albright had told the committee the Clinton administration was pressing Turkey to "be of greater assistance in Cyprus".

    "The US will want to work both with Cyprus and all the parties, including those that may have influence, and that is what the Secretary was referring to" Rubin told reporters.

    He added that the US was encouraged by recent willingness shown by Turkey and Greece to resolve long-standing disputes and "achieve genuine security and partnership in the region".

    Rubin said both the US and UN had discussed the timing of travel to Cyprus by their representatives, and noted that efforts to promote an atmosphere "conducive to successful talks" had continued over the past several weeks.

    He also said US presidential envoy Richard Holbrooke had kept in telephone contact with leaders in the region.

    "The end of the elections period will mark a time when efforts to try and promote a peaceful resolution of this dispute will begin again," Rubin said.

    President Glafcos Clerides in his campaign has continually referred to a definite US initiative in the Cyprus problem after the presidential election.

    [08] Fourth arrest in 2.5m drugs bust

    By Martin Hellicar

    A FOURTH man was remanded yesterday on suspicion of involvement in what police say was a drugs ring which imported 2.5 million's worth of cannabis from Bulgaria last year.

    Larnaca District Court heard that 46-year-old Nicosia resident Georgios Andreou Michail packaged drugs for the smugglers in the basement of his toilet-tissue factory in Sliven, Bulgaria.

    Michail, arrested late on Friday, was remanded for seven days, joining three suspected accomplices in police holding cells.

    Club owner Stelios Georgiou, 57, from Ormidhia, taxi office owner Antonis Antoniou, 27, from Xylophagou and restaurateur Eleni Frangou, 58, from Aradippou, were remanded on Friday on suspicion of importing 115 kilos of cannabis from Bulgaria between January and October last year.

    Frangou's 32-year-old son Demetris, the suspected ring-leader, has been arrested in Athens and is awaiting extradition to Cyprus.

    Case investigator Onisiforos Ioannou told the court yesterday that the police estimate of the quantity of cannabis the ring had smuggled into Cyprus hidden among bags of charcoal had risen to 130 kilos. Police found 80 kilos of cannabis at a chicken farm in Dherynia in December last year, a seizure kept secret at the time, and they are searching for another 50 kilos imported by the ring, Ioannou said.

    He told the court the 130 kilos of cannabis would have been enough to roll 250,000 joints, with a street value of 2,500,000.

    He said police believed the traffickers used Cyprus as a transit point for moving drugs to other countries.

    Michail did not object to being remanded, but pleaded his innocence. "My factory in Sliven does not have a basement, but Dimitris Frangou's storeroom does. You can ask the 18 factory employees whether I have anything to do with this case," he told the court.

    Ioannou said police had testimony implicating him in drug running.

    Police say they smashed the ring thanks information given by the chicken farmer on whose farm the 80 kilos of hashish were found, and with the help of Bulgarian, Greek and British police in Interpol.

    [09] Arson suspected in Aeolos fire

    POLICE suspect a fire which broke out at around 2am in the Nicosia offices of the Aeolos Travel Agency yesterday may have been an arson attack.

    The fire completely gutted the offices on the second floor of the Marilena building on Zena Gunther Road.

    Police found evidence of a break-in which was also discovered at the law office of Antonis Papantoniou and dentist Marios Pantelides in the same building.

    It is not yet known how much was taken from any of the offices, and police are continuing their investigations.

    © Copyright Cyprus Mail 1998

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