Presidential candidates independent and former foreign minister Nicos Christodoulides, right, shakes hands with the right-wing Averof Neophytou, center, as Andreas Mavrogiannis, left, who is backed by the left-wing AKEL party, sit prior to their live televised debate in capital Nicosia, Cyprus, Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2023. The Cyprus presidential election will take place on Sunday Feb. 5, 2023. (AP Photo/Petros Karadjias)
NICOSIA – With 14 candidates on a crowded ballot seeking to succeed Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades in Feb. 5 elections, a runoff seems certain between the top two finishers, expected to be from the ruling Democratic Rally (DISY) party.
The favorite is former foreign minister Nikos Christodoulides, who quit to run for the office, facing a challenge from DISY leader Averof Neophytou, the top candidates all from the conservative right-wing.
Christoulides hasn’t apparently been dented by a report in the British newspaper The Sunday Mail that he put Cyprus in risk of not getting the United States to lift an arms embargo for his reportedly wanting to let Russian warships use ports as a “humanitarian” gesture before the invasion of Ukraine.
A runoff would take place on Feb. 12 and bring to a close the 10 years in two terms of the tenure of Anastasiades, who was unable to bring a reunification deal with the Turkish side occupying the northern third since 1974. Presidents are only allowed two terms under the Constitution.
He also reneged on pledges to hold accountable the bankers who brought the economy to its heels with suspect loans to Greek businesses, threatening the institutions and requiring him to seek a 10-billion euro ($10.93 billion) international bailout.
That led to him breaking another promise as he authorized the banks to confiscate 54.5 percent of accounts of more than 100,000 euros ($109,328) that nearly wiped out the savings of many small businesses.
While the economy has recovered, largely on the back of tourism soaring again as the COVID-19 pandemic winds down, his successor will be faced wit the long dilemma of reunification.
Those hopes have gotten worse with the October, 2020 election of hardline nationalist Ersin Tatar as leader of the occupying Turks who said he will accept nothing less than the United Nations and world accepting his side.
Cyprus is also still trying to recover from a residency-for-passport scheme initiated under Anastasiades’ administration that resulted in being a conduit for criminals and money launders after not being properly vetted.
“Its been a very long pre-election period and I believe the real issues have been ignored… It’s like they took a time-out for almost one-and-a-half years,” political analyst Andromachi Sophocleous told Reuters.
Diplomat Andreas Mavroyiannis, the third candidate backed by opposition Communist AKEL, was the government’s chief negotiator in reunification talks with the Turkish side but got nowhere fast.
Opinion polls say Christodoulides, 49, will top the ticket, leaving Neophytou and Mavroyiannis battling it out for second place on Feb. 12, the news agency said, the former foreign chief backed by a third of DISY voters and centrists who also want a tough line in reunification talks.
NICOSIA - It's already been rejected by the occupying Turkish-Cypriot side but President Nikos Christodoulides is trying to persuade the other 26 leaders of European Union member states to push them to get involved in trying to bring the island together.
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