NICOSIA – Despite reneging on vows to get the bankers who created a near-collapse of the island’s economy, forcing a 10-billion euro ($12.22 billion) bailout, Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades carries a commanding lead in polls into the first round elections on Jan. 28.
But surveys show he’s unlikely to get enough of the vote to win outright and that a second run will be needed on Feb. 4 against either Communist-backed Stavros Malas or Nikolas Papadopoulos, son of a former President who was a hardliner in unity talks with Turks.
Anastasiades failed to bring the island together as he hoped after he walked away from negotiations in July, 2017 at the Swiss resort of Crans-Montana with Turkish-Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci after Turkey insisted on keeping an army in the northern one-third it has occupied since an unlawful 1974 invasion and the right to militarily intervene again.
The campaign has been lackluster with Anastasiades not facing an aggressive push from competitors and as Cypriots worn down by the financial crisis and collapse of the unity talks aren’t much interested anymore.
Barring a backroom deal between his opponents – which analysts say is a possibility – he looks set to win, according to opinion polls, Agence France Presse said in a report. “I think Anastasiades will win,’ bank worker Costas Kakoullis, 54, told AFP at a campaign rally for the President at a sports club in Nicosia.
“Firstly because he has come so close to reunification and secondly because of the economy,” he said, which has largely recovered after Anastasiades, breaking his word, allowed the confiscation of 47.5 percent of bank accounts over 100,000 euros ($122,242) in 2013 to save the banks from their own mismanagement of large holdings in Greek bonds devalued 74 percent and bad loans to Greek businesses who wouldn’t pay them back.
There’s hope that after the elections there will be another push for unity although no deal has ever come close to being agreed in more than four decades of fruitless talks that has seen a long line of diplomats, envoys and politicians fail to bring the two sides together.
Anastasiades has benefited from record tourism season and luring Tourism numbers reached a record high last year and the government has attracted some 4.5 billion euros ($5.5 billion) into the economy with a citizenship-for-investment scheme, selling “Golden Visas” to rich foreigners.
Anastasiades wants to set up a fund to help reimburse at least some of the money lost by the 2013 bank confiscations that while it put a dent in the rich nearly wiped out some Cypriots who lost a big chunk of their life savings while bank managers escaped with impunity and used money critics said was stolen from depositors to save their institutions.