Bishop Athanasios of Limassol won the popular vote in the election for Archbishop on Sunday, meaning the Holy Synod will chose between him, Isaias of Tamasos and Georgios of Paphos for who will be the next leader of the Church.

In an atmosphere of celebrations at his base Athanasios said “the decision of the people must be respected”.

He pointed out that “the decision of our people, who had the courage to participate in the electoral process, must be respected. Since we got them to vote, we have to respect their decision.

“Certainly in the spirit of the process, some consultations can take place,” he said referring to the alliances that will be made within the Holy Synod to reach a decision on who will be the new prelate.

The final count saw Georgios of Paphos edge into second place with the final count giving the Limassol bishop 35.68 per cent of votes, Paphos 18.39, Tamasos 18.10, Famagusta 14.79, Morphou 9.80 and Kyrenia 3.24.

With 95 per cent of the votes counted, the Limassol bishop had got 35.26 per cent of votes followed by Tamasos with 18.49, Paphos with 18.22, Famagusta with 13.8, Morphou with 9.89 and lastly Kyrenia with 3.3.

“We will wait for three days to see if there will be objections. There is no first and second. The people chose the top three. The people decide with different criteria than the bishops. Between Christmas and New Year a new Archbishop will be chosen,” Georgios said.

“Now we need calm and prayer,” Bishop Isaias said, offering “big thanks” to the 30 per cent of people who voted.

He also congratulated the other candidates and said the common good was the good of the Church.

“I am sure that as a synod we will respond to the calls of the times.”

Earlier Athanasios had said although the Holy Synod allowed the people to pick the top three they can be counted on to chose the most suitable as Archbishop because they are wise.

However, there was not much interest among the voting public – all Orthodox Greek Cypriots on the electoral roll – as according to Archbishopric elections commissioner Ioannis Charilaou the total turnout was 30.2 per cent. This means that 165,750 people out of the 548,793 who were able to cast a vote.

The Kykkos bishopric had the highest turnout with 47.90 per cent followed by Famagusta at 43.38 per cent. The lowest turnout was in Kiti at 23.04 per cent.

Asked if he considered the turnout low, Charilaou said they had prepared for 100 per cent. “So that it comes below 100 per cent for me as a technocrat is lower than we could have expected,” he added.

Saying the turnout was not as expected, he said he could offer no explanation as there are not similar elections every two years so there was no way to compare interest to previous elections.

The Holy Synod will decide among the top three of the popular vote who will become the next Archbishop in the coming days.

After three days have passed giving time for any objections to be made the Holy Synod will then have five days to decide on the next prelate.