Cyprus presidential election heads to second round next Sunday – POLITICO

NICOSIA — Former Cypriot foreign minister Nikos Christodoulides led the first round of voting for the country’s presidency on Sunday and will face a runoff next week against runner-up career diplomat Andreas Mavroyiannis.

In a record field of 14 candidates, Christodoulides won 32% of the vote, according to the results announced by the Cyprus public television channel, while Mavroyiannis obtained just under 30%. As no candidate has won an absolute majority of votes, the top two will face each other in a second round on February 12.

Christodoulides comes from the right-wing party in power, the Democratic Rally (DISY), but presents himself as an independent. Mavroyiannis presents himself as an independent with the support of the party of communist origin AKEL.

The two favorites now have a week to attract voters from the 12 candidates eliminated in the first round. Some 561,000 citizens have the right to vote.

The next president will face tough challenges over the five-year term: leading the country through changing geopolitics; tackling growing financial problems and increased migration; improve a national image marred by corruption scandals; and find a way out of the deadlock in reunification talks in ethnically divided Cyprus.

The winner will succeed outgoing conservative president Nicos Anastasiades, who has ruled the Mediterranean island for a decade. All of the main contenders have been close associates of Anastasiades over the past decade.

Anastasiades’ tenure has been marred by allegations of corruption, particularly for the controversial “Golden Visa” program, which granted foreigners a passport in return for investing in the country. Recipients included people involved in money laundering and other criminal activities. At least 1,000 Russians obtained Cypriot citizenship this way, before the program was suspended in 2020.

Christodoulides, 49, was government spokesman and then foreign minister under Anastasiades. He broke ranks with his own DISY party and its leader, Averof Neofytou, splitting the Conservative vote. He is seen as a hardliner on the Cyprus reunification issue and is also supported by centrist and less flexible parties in the reunification talks.

Mavroyiannis, 66, was Anastasiades’ chief negotiator in the reunification talks with the Turkish Cypriots. Prior to that, he served as Ambassador of Cyprus to the United Nations, France and Ireland. During the campaign, he promised to turn the page and change the tarnished image of Cyprus, as well as focus on reviving reunification talks.

DISY leader Neofytou, who won 26% of the vote on Sunday, took the reins of the party from Anastasiades a decade ago. DISY’s failure to qualify for the second round is very detrimental to the ruling party and Neofytou should bear the blame for insisting on running despite the polls not being in his favour.

Cyprus has been divided into a Turkish Cypriot north and a Greek Cypriot south since the 1974 Turkish invasion, which came in response to a Greek-backed coup. Ankara does not recognize the Republic of Cyprus, an EU member state that is otherwise internationally recognized as the sole sovereign authority over the entire island. Several attempts to find a compromise settlement over the years have failed, the last in 2017.

Northern Turkey has hardened its stance since the election of leader Ersin Tatar in 2020, an extremist insisting on a two-state solution, even as the United Nations continues to push for a bi-communal federation.


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