President Nicos Anastasiades began applying pressure on the Disy leadership to back the candidacy of Nikos Christodoulides even before the counting of the votes of Sunday’s presidential election had been completed, it emerged on Monday.

As soon as the results indicated that Disy leader and candidate Averof Neophytou would be eliminated from the second round run-off on Sunday, he and his closest associates were summoned to the presidential palace, where government ministers were present, as was House president Annita Demetriou.

In Sunday’s election Neophytou finished third with 26.11 per cent of the vote. The run-off will be contested by Christodoulides, who came first with 32,04 per cent of the votes and Andreas Mavroyiannis who took 29.59 per cent.

Anastasiades astonished everyone when he told the gathering that Disy must announce its support for Christodoulides, who had stood as the candidate of Diko, Edek and Dipa against the party’s candidate, Neophytou. He told them that he had done some ground work and some ministries would be given to Disy.

Neophytou’s response was that no such decision could be taken there and then as this was a matter for Disy’s decision making bodies such as the political bureau and supreme council. Having said this, he and other members of the Disy leadership got up to leave, informing Anastasiades there was nothing to else to discuss.

When his ministers also got up to leave, the president asked them to stay but the majority left, in what was a clear snub of Anastasiades and a sign of the cabinet’s disapproval for his clear siding with the man that had caused Averof’s electoral defeat. The only ministers that stayed were Education Minister Prodromos Prodromou, who subsequently made a public announcement in support of Christodoulides and Agriculture Minister Costas Kadis.

Undeterred by Sunday’s snub by the Disy leadership and his ministers, Anastasiades called another meeting on Monday morning at the presidential palace, at which he again tried to push support for Christodoulides. The meeting was attended by Neophytou and the Disy vice presidents, but some government ministers boycotted it, on the grounds that Anastasiades was attempting to impose his decision, in violation of party practices and procedures.

Neophytou, again, rejected Anastasiades’ attempt to make the party back Christodoulides, repeating the line that this was a decision for the party’s political bureau. The 151-member bureau was scheduled to meet on Monday, but the meeting was put back to Tuesday afternoon.

Neophytou had separate meetings at his office with Mavroyiannis and Christodoulides on Monday afternoon, after both had asked to see him.

The go-ahead for this given by the party’s executive council which met on Monday morning and announced that “the top leadership of the party is ready to meet with any of the two candidates or with any of the parties that support them, as long as they officially ask the party.”

One party insider said: “It is very unlikely that Disy would take a decision to officially back Mavroyiannis. The most likely scenario is that members would be left free to vote whichever candidate they wanted.”

While there is hostility towards Christodoulides, who is considered a traitor by many in the Disy leadership, it would be difficult to sell members the idea of officially supporting the Akel candidate.