In Cyprus, voting is underway for the first round of presidential elections which could be followed by a second round of ballots on 12 February if, as seems very likely at the moment, none of the candidates obtains an absolute majority. The outgoing president, 76-year-old Nikos Anastasiadīs, has been in office for ten years and was unable to reapply because he has reached the limit of two consecutive terms. The top three candidates – of the 14 in total – are backed by different policy areas but are all considered broadly nonetheless quite close to the positions of Anastasiadīs.
As has always been the case for decades, Cyprus’ most important political issue concerns relations with the Turkish part of the island, the self-proclaimed Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. Indeed, the island has been divided since 1974, when the Cypriot National Guard and the military junta ruling Greece (the “colonels’ regime“) staged a coup d’état and the Turkish army invaded part of Cyprus. In addition to this, the country’s major problems concern inflation, corruption and immigration (Cyprus, due to its geographical position, has many asylum seekers, especially in relation to its inhabitants).
According to pre-election polls, the candidate given as the favourite, albeit well below the threshold necessary to obtain an absolute majority, is Nikos Christodoulides, the former foreign minister and former government spokesman who presented himself as an independent but is supported by several centrist parties. He is 49 years old and compared to the other candidates he is perhaps the one who would take a tougher approach in relations with Turkey.
Almost certainly the candidate who will go to the ballot with Christodoulides will be one between Andreas Mavroyiannis and Averof Neofytou. Mavroyiannis is 66 years old and is supported by AKEL, the leftist Progressive Workers Party. Neofytou is 61 and the leader of DISY, the centre-right party of President Anastasiades and the former party of Christodoulides.
Cyprus is a presidential republic, i.e. the president heads the government. 561,000 people registered to vote in these elections and, also by virtue of the lack of polarization among candidates, a high abstention is expected.