AKEL Communist Party's Andros Kyprianou

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AKEL COMMUNIST PARTY'S ANDROS KYPRIANOU

Most people, if asked to say the first thing that comes to mind when they hear "Cyprus," would not respond, "Communist Party." Yet that is the country's oldest -- and, for many years, only -- political party. Similarly, if asked to visualize a leading Communist official, few Americans would conjure up the image of Andros Kyprianou, head of the international relations department of Cyprus' AKEL Communist Party. In fact, however, he represents the new generation of leadership of a unique, and undeniably mainstream, Cypriot version of a worldwide movement that has since expired in many other parts of the world.

With its founding in 1926, the Communist Party became the only political party on Cyprus, then under British colonial rule. Five years later, an anti-British demonstration, which resulted in a fatality, led to the outlawing of the party, which then went underground for 10 years. In 1941 a second party, the Progressive Party of the Working Class, was formed and, in 1943, the two parties united under AKEL, Kyprianou said. In 1996 AKEL won 33 percent of the parliamentary vote and 34 percent of municipal elections, making it the second largest party behind the ruling coalition. Indeed, Kyprianou told the Washington Report, a recent Gallup poll showed the party to be number one in popular support. "The public is disappointed in the president and the Democratic Rally," he said, "especially with their failure to solve the Cyprus problem."

In the campaign leading up to the February 1998 presidential elections, Kyprianou noted, President Glafcos Clerides promised a serious effort to promote a solution and, two days before the election, the U.S. promised as well to exert influence on Turkey. Since Clerides' re-election, however, the situation has, in fact, worsened, according to Kyprianou. "The issue of the [deployment of Russian surface-to-air] missiles escalated [Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf] Denktash's intransigence," he said, "and now he has rejected the proposal for a bizonal, bicommunal federation."

The AKEL official also described the domestic situation as "deteriorating rapidly," citing corruption charges against the minister of interior made by an MP from the minister's own party, and scandal in the church as well. Kyprianou said his party has "a negligible effect on the current government." Although President Clerides "has invited the Communist Party to discuss the issues and cooperate on the Cyprus problem," he explained, "in the end he decides himself, and doesn't ask our opinion." For example, Kyprianou said, the president didn't consult other parties before signing the missile contract with Russia.

As do all Cypriot parties, AKEL supports the formula of a bizonal, bicommunal federation, whereby two separate provinces would exist along with a strong central government which would promulgate a single foreign policy reflecting a unified international identity.

The party initially opposed EU membership for Cyprus, Kyprianou said, "for economic, political and cultural reasons. …