Cypriots Cast Ballots in Presidential Election
NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) _ Greek Cypriots vote Sunday in presidential elections that could decide whether they will accept a U.N. plan for reuniting their Mediterranean island nation, cut in half by a Turkish invasion in 1974.
The election pits incumbent George Vassiliou against veteran right-wing leader Glafcos Clerides and business executive Paschalis Paschalides, as well as two minor candidates.
The balloting is viewed as an unofficial referendum on whether Greek Cypriots are prepared to accept the U.N. ″Set of Ideas,″ which proposes a federal arrangement between Greek Cypriots and a breakaway Turkish Cypriot state.
Vassiliou supports the U.N. plan; Clerides and Paschalides reject it.
Opinion polls show the three main candidates can each count on roughly one- third of Sunday’s vote. If none receives a clear majority, a run-off between the top two will be held next Sunday.
Some 390,000 Greek Cypriots are required to vote. Polling stations opened at 6:30 a.m., with first results expected by mid-evening.
The United Nations’ blueprint was drawn up last year after nearly two decades of fruitless talks.
Cyprus, which gained independence from Britain in 1960, was divided in July 1974 when Turkey invaded after a short-lived, Athens-backed coup by supporters of union with Greece.
The Turks seized the northern one-third of the island, which became an enclave for the 150,000-strong Muslim Turkish Cypriot minority. They proclaimed an independent republic in 1983, but it is recognized only by Turkey.
The ideas incorporated in U.N. Security Council Resolution 789 would make Cyprus a federal state and reduce Turkish Cypriot territory from 38 percent to 28 percent.
Turkish Cypriots have rejected the plan and earlier resolutions calling for the withdrawal of 35,000 Turkish troops from the north.
Vassiliou has staked his reelection hopes on efforts to negotiate a settlement with Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash. He argues that if the U.N. plan is rejected, the United Nations will wash its hands of Cyprus.
The U.N. peacekeeping force on the island already is being reduced, partly because of the failure to reach a settlement.