The ‘surprise’ of Sunday’s first round presidential election – Andreas Mavroyiannis making it to the second round, leapfrogging Averof Neophytou – should not really come as a surprise, one commentator told the Cyprus Mail.
The boost that Akel-backed Mavroyiannis got on Sunday most likely came from voters generally disaffected with politics, and who at the last moment decided to support the career diplomat to stop Disy’s Neophytou cold in his tracks, political analyst Christoforos Christoforou said.
Mavroyiannis received 117,590 votes (29.63 per cent) while – about 20,000 votes more than what Akel got in the 2021 legislative elections. Neophytou finished third spot with 103,703 votes.
“But it would be a mistake to infer that Akel’s so-called ‘lost’ voters returned to the party fold yesterday,” Christoforou said.
“Rather, the extra push for Mavroyiannis probably derives from ‘latent’ voters – people who generally stay away from parliamentary elections because of general disaffection, but who decide to mobilise when presidential elections or European Parliament elections come around.”
This time, it appears this bloc were motivated by a desire to prevent Neophytou becoming president.
Christoforou also pointed out that in the run-up to the ballot, opinion polls consistently showed Neophytou having the highest negative ratings of all the candidates – in some cases negative opinions of him reached 70 per cent.
“There’s a perception out there that Neophytou is beholden to big business, something which alienates a lot of people.”
Obviously, the other major drawback for Disy was the splitting of its party base by ‘independent’ candidate Nikos Christodoulides – who came in first with 32.04 per cent.
Exit polls on Sunday suggested that as many as one-quarter of self-designated Disy voters – based on their preference in the last parliamentary elections – chose Christodoulides.
And Neophytou didn’t do himself any favours in the way he had handled the problem of Christodoulides – a former Disy cadre who broke away from his party to stand as an independent.
“I believe Neophytou sealed his own fate when he convened the party’s political bureau to force Christodoulides to swear allegiance to the party, so to speak. That only served to polarise Disy supporters, not to mention giving Christodoulides more visibility,” Christoforou said.
As for Christodoulides’ performance, and the fact he slightly surpassed the numbers shown in surveys, that can be attributed to a section of undecided voters – who typically account for about 15 per cent of the electorate.
Predicting next Sunday’s outcome is sketchy, no matter how the alliances shape out. According to the analyst, whereas Christodoulides looks like he’s in the driver’s seat, anything is possible.
In fact, history has ample examples of how the candidate clinching top spot in the first round ended up losing the presidency in the runoff. The most recent example was in 2008, when Ioannis Kasoulides of Disy secured 33.51 per cent, overtaking Akel’s Demetris Christofias. But in the second round, Christofias got 53.37 per cent to Kasoulides’ 46.63 per cent.
Or in 1998, when Akel-backed George Iacovou garnered 40.61 per cent in the first round, narrowly ahead of Disy’s Glafcos Clerides at 40.06 per cent. Things were turned on their head in the runoff, when Clerides got 50.82 per cent, leaving Iacovou behind at 49.18 per cent.
Similar reversals had taken place in 1988 and again in 1993.