The election campaign finally shifted into ‘silly mode’ on Thursday as the two camps dug deep in a last-ditch bid to hoover up undecided voters.
Their efforts centred on scoring brownie points over Wednesday evening’s debate between the contenders, president Nicos Anastasiades and Akel-backed independent candidate Stavros Malas.
Akel chief Andros Kyprianou was on a damage-control mission after social media denizens heavily trolled Malas for his reliance on his tablet during the debate.
Sophie Michaelidou, the director of the Press and Information Office (PIO), waded into the fun at Malas’ expense with a post on her personal Facebook page while the debate was in progress.
Like others, she wondered what Malas would do without his device.
Her post read: “Mummy! The Wi-Fi connection is down. What do I say now?”
The Akel leader went on television on Thursday to excoriate Michaelidou; as head of the PIO, she should have remained neutral, he protested.
Not realising perhaps that in the social-media age, this type of reaction tends to backfire by drawing even more attention.
Responding to Kyprianou, Michaelidou said her post clearly reflected her own personal views, and she declined to delete it.
In the wake of the debate, newspapers supporting either Anastasiades or Malas carried front-page banners claiming that their man had carried the day.
Daily Alithia, a pro-Disy stalwart, declared that the president had “schooled” the inexperienced Malas.
Whereas Haravghi, the Akel mouthpiece, said Malas “was clearly superior” to the incumbent in the debate.
On the more serious side, the minor parties of the so-called centre which backed Nicolas Papadopoulos’ candidacy in the first round of the elections were on Thursday set to formalise their stance regarding the runoff vote.
Socialists Edek decided they would support neither candidate.
Diko itself had announced earlier in the week that they would lend their backing to none of the two remaining contenders, advising their supporters to vote as they see fit.
Giorgos Lillikas, the junior partner in the coalition supporting Papadopoulos, likewise left the decision up to people.
Solidarity, led by Eleni Theocharous, were expected to go the same way. On Thursday Theocharous held a half-hour meeting at the presidential palace with the incumbent, Anastasiades.
Coming out, she indicated that the talks went nowhere, and that therefore no deal was struck bringing Solidarity over to the Anastasiades camp.
“There remain deep divisions on the Cyprus issue between Solidarity and Anastasiades,” Theocharous told reporters.
Government spokesman Nicos Christodoulides said the president will over the next few days continue meeting with party officials as well as groups of citizens.
Probed as to whether Anastasiades would be open to meeting Papadopoulos, Christodoulides did not rule out the possibility.
Far-right party Elam, who received a 5.7 per cent share of the popular vote in the first round, have yet to adopt an official position.
Meanwhile on the periphery of the party manoeuvring, various organised groups were coming out in support of either Anastasiades or Malas.
The Movement against Foreclosures said they were behind Malas, while a group of 53 academics co-signed a statement explaining why Anastasiades was the better choice for president.
Also jumping on the Anastasiades bandwagon was the association of former Laiki’s depositors (Sykala) who lost their savings in the 2013 bail-in.
In a statement, Sykala said they received more tangible assurances from Anastasiades that he would work toward compensating them.
The president assured them he would re-table a bill establishing a so-called ‘Solidarity Fund’ to compensate those who lost money.
The incumbent’s proposal was superior to Malas’, the association added.
Absent a concrete alliance between the broader Papadopoulos camp and Malas, pundits are predicting a victory for Anastasiades in the second round of elections this coming Sunday.
Malas meantime was still answering questions as to why he did not make good on his promise to name his prospective finance minister during Wednesday evening’s debate with Anastasiades.
He deflected, saying only that he postponed the unveiling due to practical reasons.
Speaking on Sigma TV, Malas said the person he had in mind for the job had other professional obligations.
“There are certain people who work for international organizations and who therefore wouldn’t like their name being mentioned [as prospective finance minister],” he offered.
But he reassured voters that his choice of finance minister would be an individual beholden to no party.
However, his flip-flopping on the issue led to speculation that Malas is playing it by ear.