Cyprus communist leader celebrates victory in India

April 2nd, 2008 - 12:56 pm ICT by admin  

By Liz Mathew
Coimbatore, April 2 (IANS) When his colleagues in the island nation of Cyprus were on the streets to celebrate the communist party AKEL’s first electoral victory there, central committee member Antonios Chrysostomou was here and making no effort to hide his joy. Chrysostomou had every reason to smile when Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) politburo member Sitaram Yechury introduced him to the 19th party congress delegates or when party general secretary Prakash Karat hugged him on the stage.

AKEL has just won the presidential election in Cyprus. Party general secretary Dimitris Christofias received 53 percent votes in an unprecedented victory, beating the conservative Yiannis Kasoulides.

With Christofias’ victory, Cyprus became the first country in the 27-member European Union to be ruled by a communist party.

Despite being the biggest Greek Cypriot political party and controlling a third of the vote, this was the first time in AKEL’s 82-year history that it fielded its own presidential candidate. Previously, the party has preferred to form an alliance with a centrist or leftist candidate and take a back seat in government.

But for Chrysostomou, AKEL’s task does not end there.

“Our primary and most important aim is to end the three-decade-long division of the country. Our government’s top priority is to unify Cyprus,” the communist leader says.

Following violence between the Greek and Turkish Cypriots, the Greeks attempted a coup in 1974 in which parts of island was annexed to Greece. Turkey also invaded one-third of the island. This led to the displacement of thousands of Cypriots and the establishment of a separate Turkish Cypriot political entity in the north.

The most important issue in Cyprus is the partition of the island, especially as Turkish Cyprus is barred from direct international trade, which has a huge economic and social impact.

Asked about his experience here, Chrysostomou says AKEL has great regard for Indian communists.

“Today the world listens to Indian leaders. I also congratulate the communist leaders here as they play a significant role in Indian politics,” he said.

The Cyprus leader said that he had also heard a lot about Marxist veteran and former Kerala chief minister E.M.S. Namboothiripad, who led the first-ever elected communist government in the world.

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