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President sounding out former minister as stand-in if FM runs for president

Foreign minister, Ioannis Kasoulides

President Nicos Anastasiades has reportedly sounded out a former foreign minister to return to his job, temporarily replacing Nikos Christodoulides who is thought to have aspirations for the presidency come 2023.

Ruling Disy have got the ball rolling for next year’s presidential elections – party members interested in running for the top office in the land must submit their candidacy by January 10. That will kick off the primaries inside the party, culminating in an electoral congress on March 12 when approximately 1,800 delegates will select (by secret ballot) their party’s presidential nominee for 2023.

It’s understood the move was intended to force Christodoulides – a member of Disy – to come clean on his intentions, as it’s widely believed he’s been running a ‘covert’ campaign for the 2023 presidential elections.

Were Christodoulides to announce his candidacy by early January, he would need to step down from the foreign ministry. Alternatively, if he does not announce it by then but at a later date, he would almost certainly lose sponsorship from Disy, limiting his options to running as an independent, or else seeking out allies from the other parties.

Polling high in recent surveys, Christodoulides is seen as posing a challenge to the presidential ambitions of Disy leader Averof Neophytou.

Over the weekend, Kathimerini newspaper reported that Anastasiades had sent out feelers to ex-foreign minister Ioannis Kasoulides as to whether the latter might return to the post, replacing Christodoulides for the 13 months ahead of the presidential election.

On Monday, the left-leaning Haravghi contacted Kasoulides, who said he had nothing do with the media reports. He also declined to confirm whether the president had approached him.

But citing its own sources, Haravghi said a meeting between Kasoulides and Anastasiades did take place, during which the offer was made. The daily said also that Kasoulides has set a condition for accepting the job – namely that under his watch the foreign ministry should pivot back to emphasising a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation as the model for a Cyprus settlement.

But Haravghi added a caveat, noting that Anastasiades won’t show his cards until the next round of opinion polls, in order to gauge whether Christodoulides’ popularity is still going strong.

Anastasiades himself demurred when asked about the rumours on Monday.

“I do not concern myself with what is being written. I will make my decisions whenever I see fit,” he told journalists.

He added: “What I do know, is that I will be president until February 28, 2023. Beyond that, I do not pay attention to those who concern themselves with the presidential elections.”

Daily Politis read the president’s remarks as an ‘oblique non-denial’ of the speculation over Kasoulides. The paper said Anastasiades’ evasive response appears to confirm that the offer was made.

The paper went on to claim that Kasoulides is open to returning to the foreign ministry, being a team player who recognises that his acceptance will help calm the waters inside Disy in the run-up to the elections.

Kasoulides served as foreign minister from 1997 to 2003, and again from 2013 to 2018. He was MEP for Cyprus from 2004 until 2013. The 73-year-old has held a number of political posts, including member of the House of Representatives from 1991 to 1993, and government spokesman from 1993 to 1997.

He ran for president in 2008, winning the first round, but then losing in the second to Demetris Christofias. Kasoulides received just under 47 per cent of the vote.

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