Nikos Christodoulides elected President of Cyprus in run-off voteComments
Former foreign minister Nikos Christodoulides was elected as the new president of Cyprus in a runoff election Sunday. His rival, veteran diplomat Andreas Mavroyiannis, conceded defeat.
With 100% of ballots counted, Christodoulides had 51.9% of the vote to Mayroyiannis' 48.1%, according to official election results.
Christodoulides, 49, campaigned as a unifying force for ethnically divided Cyprus, eschewing ideological and party divisions. His message resonated with a wide cross-section of voters.
Mavroyiannis, who had served as Cyprus’ ambassador to the United Nations. positioned himself as the agent of change, ushering in a new political era following a decade of rule by outgoing President Nicos Anastasiades. But the support he received from the communist-rooted AKEL party may have pushed swing voters into backing Christodoulides.
Speaking to a sombre crowd of supporters, Mavroyiannis, 66, who also was Anastasiades’ chief negotiator with the
“I want to congratulate Nikos Christodoulides for his election victory and to wish more power to him," Mavroyiannis said. “I'm saddened that we couldn't fulfil the hopes and expectations for large progressive changes that our homeland needs.”
Christodoulides appeared to have won with support from members of the Democratic Rally (DISY) party, whose leader, Averof Neophytou,
Many DISY party insiders had blamed Christodoulides, a long-time party member, for running against Neophytou and splitting the party vote.
However, many did not want the AKEL, Mavroyiannis’ main backer, to regain a foothold in government and feared the diplomat becoming the next president of Cyprus would threaten the country's fragile economy and pro-Western trajectory.
Critics fault AKEL for bringing Cyprus to the brink of bankruptcy a decade ago and for maintaining a pro-Moscow slant.
Amid the bickering within DISY, Anastasiades, a former party leader, took the unusual step of issuing a statement suggesting that DISY members should work to thwart an AKEL-backed government.
He urged the party's voters to safeguard the island’s Western orientation and its deepening alliance with the U.S and to maintain fiscal discipline while effectively dealing with an influx of irregular migrants.
Trying to mend fences with Christodoulides and divisions within DISY, Neophytou said the president-elect could count on the party's support “for the good of the country.”
Christoulides inherits the challenge of trying to revive stalemated peace talks with the country's Turkish Cypriots, who declared independence nearly a decade after a 1974 Turkish invasion that followed a coup aimed at union with Greece.
The island's reunification has eluded politicians during over nearly a half-century of negotiations, despite progress on the shape of an overall peace deal.
A potential resolution became more complicated following the 2017 collapse of talks at a Swiss resort that many believed had come tantalisingly close to producing a breakthrough.
Turkey, the only country to recognize the minority Turkish Cypriots’ independence, has since turned its back on a United Nations-backed arrangement for a federated Cyprus. It advocates instead a two-state deal, which the U.N., the European Union, the U.S. and other countries have rejected.
As the government spokesman and Anastasiades' close confidant at the time, Christodoulides was a key insider during the failed peace drive in Switzerland. He has blamed Turkey’s insistence on maintaining a permanent troop presence and military intervention rights in a reunified Cyprus as the main reason the negotiations unravelled.
European union membership
Christodoulides has said he draws the line at those two Turkish demands but would utilise Cyprus' European Union membership to engage with Ankara on ways to break the current deadlock.
On the economy, Christodoulides said a top priority would be to maintain fiscal discipline without endangering the country’s social safety net.
The president-elect also aims to expedite development on
“Mr. Christodoulides’ candidacy is an opportunity for Cypriot people to turn the page, with a new type of governance, with a humanist purpose above all else,” voter Neophytos Makrides, 58, said as he cast his ballot in Paphos. “No to corruption and in favour of the right resolution of the Cypriot problem.”