The mayoral election in Limassol proved to be the mother of all battles in the end, as Nicos Nicolalides only edged past incumbent Andreas Christou with nine votes thanks to the last ballot box of the night.
Nicolaides, a former transport minister and Edek MP, effectively delivered a serious blow to party chairman Marinos Sizopoulos, whose actions forced the mayor-elect to go rogue and into the hands of ruling Disy, which endorsed his candidacy.
He was also supported by the Green party and the Solidarity Movement.
“There is no winner or loser, there is a city we all love and from tomorrow (Monday), we must all rally together to work for this city,” Nicolaides said after his election on Sunday evening.
The new mayor thanked Disy for its support, which “sends strong messages concerning the political modernisation of local authority that must be attempted without partisanship and confrontations,” he said.
Nicolaides announced his independent candidacy in September, after a bitter row with Sizopoulos, who decided to run in the parliamentary elections last May for the very seat Nicolaides had won in Limassol in the 2006 parliamentary elections.
Sizopoulos barely won the seat but his move may have alienated supporters who voted for Nicolaides on Sunday instead of Christou, whom Edek officially endorsed.
Nicolaides’ win would also serve as boost for Disy chief Averof Neophytou who had to deal with a small rebellion inside his own party when he decided to support the former Edek MP instead of fielding its own candidate.
Disy’s move prompted complaints by both party members interested in running, including former deputies Andreas Michaelides and Andreas Themistocleous. Five members had tabled their names for consideration and left the political bureau session that was going to decide. It ended up picking Nicolaides.
The move also angered Sizopoulos, who deemed it an “intervention in Edek’s internal affairs that should have been avoided”.
On Monday, Edek said the overall results were a success.
“Considering the characteristics of this election contest, the party’s percentages in the parliamentary elections (lost two seats), and the polemic against the party in various municipalities, especially in the Limassol district, the results undoubtedly constitute a considerable success for Edek ,” the party said.
Observers believe the battle of Limassol was won because Nicolaides chose to focus on the neglected neighborhoods of Limassol, behind the coastal city’s glamorous façade.
The high rate of absentee voters – almost half — may have also played a role in Christou’s defeat.
The outgoing mayor watched as the last ballot box eliminated his slim lead, handing his opponent victory by a mere nine votes.
Christou said he respected the result and wished Nicolaides all the best.
“The people have decided, even with a narrow margin, that Mr Nicolaides will be the new mayor,” Christou said.
He advised Nicolaides to work hard, be wise, exercise moderation, and achieve consensus.