Cyprus presidential race begins as nine candidates submit bids
The race for the Cyprus presidency has begun in earnest, in an election that, once again, could hold the key to the island’s feuding Greek and Turkish communities finally uniting.
29/12/2017- On Friday, nine candidates including the incumbent president, Nicos Anastasiades, formally submitted bids to contest the race, the first round of which is scheduled for 28 January. After registering his nomination in Nicosia, the island’s ethnically split capital, Anastasiades told the assembled crowd he had a vision for “a fully European country, and especially a truly free and independent country”. Anastasiades, whose campaign motto is “stability and certainty”, is widely viewed as the frontrunner but not tipped to win outright in the first round, in which case a vote between the top two candidates will be held the following Sunday. The prospect of a nail-biting second round on 4 February has not been ruled out if Nikolas Papadopoulos, who heads the centre-right Diko party, beats Stavros Malas, an independent fielded by the communist party Akel, to make it through to a run-off.
Papadopoulos is the son of the late former president Tassos Papadopoulos, and shares his hardline views on reunification. In 2004, Papadopoulos Sr urged Greek Cypriots to vote no in a referendum on a UN plan to bring together the two halves of the island. Addressing supporters on Friday, Papadopoulos said that if victorious, he would use his five-year term in office to “end failed policies and … restore dignity back to our people”. In an Anastasiades-Papadopoulos run-off, much would depend on which way Akel would go as kingmaker. “The big question in these elections is who Anastasiades will face in the second round,” said the veteran Cyprus expert James Ker-Lindsay. “Akel, like Anastasiades’ Disy [party], may be moderate and pro-solution but it also has a history of jumping into bed with Diko if it means winning ministerial posts.”
Anastasiades, 71, has made reunification of the tiny Mediterranean island a top priority, with confidants telling the Guardian that peace negotiations would be relaunched by the summer if the leader is re-elected. Talks described as the “best chance ever” of resolving the west’s longest-running diplomatic dispute collapsed spectacularly in July last year amid angry scenes between Greek and Turkish Cypriots in the Swiss mountain resort where they were being held. “A solution is basically there,” said a local commentator, Kyriakos Pierides. “It does not require too much, just political will to sit down and finalise it.” For the first time, a far-right party, Elam, will also contest the presidential election after successfully winning two seats in the 56-seat Greek Cypriot parliament in May 2106. A copycat version of Greece’s neo-nazi party, Golden Dawn, the extremist force has moulded itself as the only authentic opponent of the bi-zonal, bi-communal federation envisaged in settlement talks between Cyprus’s two ethnic communities.
© The Guardian*