Cyprus elects new president in a continuation of outgoing president Nicos Anastasiades’ doctrines

Archive – Outgoing President of Cyprus, Nicos Anastasiades – Kay Nietfeld/dpa

Cyprus celebrates this Sunday the first round of a presidential election where the three main candidates are perceived as an extension of the outgoing president, Nicos Anastasiades, who is leaving power after two terms in office.

Leading the polls is former foreign minister Nikos Christodoulides, a former member of the ruling Democratic Rally party, who is now running as an independent candidate after causing a schism in the party. Despite his lead, polls indicate that a second round, to be held next weekend, will be necessary.

Behind him are the party’s current leader, Averof Neophytou, and Andreas Mavroyiannis, who is running with the backing of the opposition Akel but served as Anastasiades’ chief negotiator in talks to resolve the historic conflict with Northern Cyprus, the ‘de facto’ state — called the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus — only recognized by Turkey.

The three main candidates have already cast their ballots amid calls for a turnout that is expected to be low, analysts at the ‘Cyprus Mail’ understand, due to the electorate’s disenchantment with the candidates’ profiles and lack of confidence in their promises to fight corruption.

«It is said that today is a party of the Republic, but if we want it to be so, I don’t want anyone to abstain,» the outgoing leader has asked in a message to the 541,000 registered voters. «I hope that voters will cast their ballot. It is a right that has now become a duty,» he said before confirming his withdrawal from political life.

«I believe I have managed to contribute to the political life of the world for the past 43 years,» Anastasiades, 76, said in comments after casting his ballot in Limassol, picked up by the In Cyprus portal. «It’s time to enjoy my family,» he added.

Christodoulides, meanwhile, cast his ballot in Geroskipou, his home town «because when you are in political life you should never forget where you started from.» «Without that you have no compass for the future. Today is the day of democracy, today all Cypriots can decide the course of our country,» he said.

The main electoral official, Costas Constantinou, has indicated that the first hours of the voting have passed without complications in spite of the prevailing bad weather. The polls will close at noon local time (13.00 in mainland Spain and the Balearic Islands). The second round will be held on February 12.