Well, okay — they just elected a Communist as their President.
And AKEL, Cyprus’ sort-of Communist Party, isn’t exactly a bunch of ragged proletarians. Excepting some fiery rhetoric, a tendency to wave red flags, and a proliferation of pictures of Che, it’s not too different from a standard European party of the left. AKEL supporters range from headscarf-wearing grandmothers to latte-sipping yuppies. New President Dimitris Christofias did get a degree from Moscow University, but he comes across as a pretty typical Balkan elected official. Attempts by his opponents to paint him as a slavering radical and an atheist enemy of Christendom seem to have backfired; he won the Presidential runoff yesterday by a comfortable margin, 53%-47%.
Still, he’ll be the first Communist head of state in Europe in… oh, a while now. Will he be the first Communist head of state in the EU? I can’t think of another offhand. Anyone?
Christofias has said that he hopes to restart talks with Turkish Northern Cyprus, which have been stalled since Greek Cyprus rejected the Annan Plan in 2004. I wish him luck — he’ll need it. Even with goodwill on both sides, reaching a settlement will be difficult; the Turks are still resentful that the 2004 deal was rejected, a lot of Greeks are either apathetic or actively hostile to any negotiation with the north, and both sides will be vulnerable to nationalist attacks on their flanks. I’d say Christofias’ victory raises the chances of a successful settlement from “zero” to “very slim”.
Still, it’s an interesting development. Let’s see what happens.