Ex-foreign minister to face diplomat for Cypriot presidency
Nicosia, Cyprus — A centre-right former foreign minister and a career diplomat backed by a communist-rooted party will fight for the presidency of ethnically divided Cyprus in the February 12 runoff, according to official voting results announced on Sunday. .
With all the votes counted in the first round of the presidential race, Nikos Christodoulides, 49, the country’s former top diplomat, had garnered 32% to head to a second round against Andreas Mavroyiannis, 66, who had a surprisingly good performance. strong with 29.6%.
Averof Neophytou, 61, the leader of the Democratic Rally (DISY), the country’s largest political party, trailed Mavroyiannis by around 3.5 percentage points, despite earlier opinion polls placing him in second place.
Returning officer Costas Constantinou said 72% of some 561,000 citizens voted on Sunday, a figure slightly higher than in the previous presidential election in 2018. The winner of next week’s runoff will be the eighth new president of Cyprus in 63 years of history as an independent republic.
Christodoulides consistently led all opinion polls throughout the month-long campaign, positioning himself as the candidate capable of bridging partisan affiliations and ideological fault lines to unite a fractured electorate.
Mavroyiannis, who served under incumbent President Nicos Anastasiades as chief negotiator in peace talks with the Turkish Cypriots, caused an upset by defying previous opinion polls which showed him trailing Neophytou. His message as an agent of change has resonated with voters unhappy with a decade of Anastasiades’ rule, especially members of the communist-origin AKEL party who support his candidacy.
Mavroyiannis told a crowd of Cypriot flag supporters that he would contact other candidates in the coming days to enlist their support.
“Our love for our country abolishes all dividing lines and unites us,” he said. “Our focus on the goal of a healthy and robust economy and our concern for our citizens outweighs our differences.”
Neophytou had banked on his message as a veteran insider and the strongest hand to provide stability in these times of economic uncertainty, relying on the solid work of the government of which many DISY executives were members. But it appeared that Neophytou’s perception among a swath of voters as a string-pulling insider tainted by the mistakes of the outgoing administration hurt him at the polls.
Neophytou told supporters at his campaign headquarters that he congratulated both Christodoulides and Mavroyiannis on their success. He said a decision on his party’s support for either would be made collectively in accordance with party protocols and hinted that he would not resign from the DISY leadership.
“We fought an uphill battle under the most adverse political conditions,” Neophytou said. “It wasn’t enough.”
Voter Andreas Mashas said peace efforts with Turkish Cypriots and allegations of corruption against the incumbent government were among the factors that made him decide who he would vote for.
“No candidate is fully satisfactory to us, they are all politicians, so you vote for the worst, that’s how elections usually go, I consider my choice good enough,” Mashas told The Associated. Press, without revealing what his choice was. was.
Cypriots expect the new president to act quickly to shore up an economy rocked by Russia’s war in Ukraine and its impact on the cost of living.
Migration has also been a hot issue amid a continued large influx of migrants that has made Cyprus one of the top EU countries in terms of asylum applications per capita.
Capitalizing on Cyprus’ offshore natural gas fields amid an energy crisis and returning to the negotiating table with dissident Turkish Cypriots to resolve the island’s ethnic divide are also priority issues.