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Monday, May 29, 2023

Nikos Christodoulides Becomes Cyprus’ President with 52% of the Vote

Supporters of the new president celebrated the outcome right away, lighting up the Nicosia sky with fireworks

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CYPRUS: Former Foreign Minister Nikos Christodoulides beat career diplomat Andreas Mavroyiannis in a close election to become Cyprus’s eighth president.

Christodoulides, 49, defeated his opponent, who had been supported by the communist party AKEL, with 51.92 per cent of the vote to her 48.09 per cent. Only 15,041 votes separated the loser and the winner.

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The former main negotiator for peace negotiations with Turkish Cypriots, Mavroyiannis, announced his defeat by saying, “Tonight, a long but wonderful journey has come to an end. It gave me the opportunity to meet thousands of people and hear their hopes and dreams for our country.”

Supporters of the new president celebrated the outcome right away, lighting up the Nicosia sky with fireworks as they cheered and danced.

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But it was also easy to make people feel afraid during an election with a lot of drama and suspense.

Christodoulides, who ran as an independent, got the support of groups that were openly against talks to bring the Mediterranean island back together.

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His triumph dampened expectations that the long-running conflict that has divided Cyprus, the EU’s most easterly member state, would soon be resolved. 

Cleopatra Kitti, a Cypriot policy adviser at the Athens-based thinktank Eliamep, claimed that today’s Greek Cypriot election resulted in a government with strong nationalist leanings. This is likely another missed opportunity because it is unlikely that support for a bicommunal, bizonal federation would materialise anytime soon.

Averof Neofytou, the head of the centre-right DISY party, who has been in power for the past ten years, was also placed against the two contenders in the first round of voting, which saw Christodoulides emerge as the front-runner.

With Neofytou’s defeat, DISY, the largest political force in the island’s internationally recognised republic, failed to advance to a runoff for the first time. Christodoulides was largely blamed for the humiliation because he went against party rules when he announced his candidature and broke ranks.

Leaders of DISY said they would back Mavroyiannis, but the fact that the party didn’t officially back anyone left the race wide open.

Reunification attempts have fallen short time and time again. The election was seen as the most important since the former British colony’s victory in 1960, as memories of peaceful coexistence faded quickly.

The most recent round of talks between the two communities and the island’s guarantor nations—Greece, Turkey, and the UK—failed miserably in Switzerland in 2017. The break is the longest since negotiations started following the invasion.

While Christodoulides courted supporters by promising to revise the terms on which the UN-mediated talks have so far been held, he is also aware that if the peace process is to be revived, Greek Cypriots must win back the confidence of the international community. 

The outgoing president, Nicos Anastasiades, who has been in office since 2013, was accused of blocking a resolution at the last minute. The law had prevented the leader from running for a second consecutive five-year term.

Also Read: Turkey: President Erdogan Arrives in Earthquake Affected Region, Faces Criticism

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