The marathon Disy political bureau meeting called to settle its stance going into the second round of the presidential election appeared set to back a free vote and a party place in the opposition.

The divided party found itself on shaky ground as it sought to answer a fractious question: Do we support Andreas Mavroyiannis – seen as putting Akel in power, Nikos Christodoulides – denounced as a turncoat, or simply offer a free vote as part of the opposition?

Disy leader and unsuccessful presidential candidate Averof Neophytou missed a 10pm-scheduled interview with the state broadcaster due after the end of the meeting which became increasingly raucous.

Earlier in the meeting, he had sought to present a joint decision reached with President Nicos Anstasiades that the party back a free vote and to be in the opposition.

But it got off to a fiery start as Neophytou walked into cheers and cries of “no to defectors, no to traitors!”

Anastasiades did not attend the meeting with some saying “just as well” after Education Minister Prodromos Prodromou was mobbed by Disy supporters outside the hall. Prodromou on Sunday called on Disy to support Christodoulides, while the Cyprus Mail reported that the president also backs the former foreign minister and ex-Disy member.

In the chaotic scenes, with shouting and swearing, a journalist was involved in an altercation – only soothed after Neophytou intervened and called on the crowd to apologise.

For his part, Prodromou told members that the bureau should not be considering whether Christodoulides is a defector but should instead be concerned that Akel does not get into power.

Key backers of a free vote and being in opposition to a Christodoulides-led government were Transport Mininster Yiannis Karousos, Defence Minister Charalambos Petrides, and deputy social welfare minister Anastasia Anthousi.

Katie Clerides, daughter of Disy founder Glafcos Clerides, urged the party to back Mavroyiannis. She centred her argument in favour based on the Cyprus problem. Paphos mayor Phedonas Phedonos also argued in favour of Disy backing Mavroyiannis.

Foreign Minister Yiannis Kasoulides said he would personally back Mavroyiannis but argued that the party should go for a free vote.

But Neophytou also faced choppy waters as he was interrupted when he first began reading out the joint announcement, and there were shouts from the 300 members present – of whom only 151 can vote. Some argued that they were there for their voices to be heard and not to have statements read out to them.

Neophytou then said he would read the statement at the end.

A free vote or vote by conscience means that Disy will not urge its members to vote in a specific direction.

As he walked towards the meeting room, Neophytou added that he will call a party meeting for March 11 for the election of a new party leader – in which he will again run.

“I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for the difficult but wonderful efforts we gave – for what we believe in, our principles and values,” Neophytou told the meeting.

It is understood that most speakers were in favour of a free vote. Notably, however, Mavroyiannis also had his backers.

Efthymios Diplaros, Disy vice president, had told RIK earlier the people had decided that the party should be in opposition. He expected that the political bureau would likely decide that the party will not partake in the upcoming government.

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 Akel-backed Mavroyiannis who took 29.59 per cent.

Ahead of the Disy meeting, Christodoulides said that the party can have a significant role to play in a government of broad social acceptance under his presidency, the candidate said on Tuesday,

Christodoulides’ statement was sent directly to Disy leader Neophytou and was published in Phileleftheros. His strategy appears to be offering Disy members ministerial posts – and a continuation of government power – in exchange for their votes.

“I strongly believe we are united by common concerns and we agree on important matters such as fiscal discipline, developing the economy, ending the deadlock over the Cyprus problem, effective dealing of the migration problem, the European direction of our country and many more,” Christodoulides said.

The candidate said he believed, Disy should have a significant role to successfully tackle current challenges. “It is the party that over the years, through cooperating with other political powers, defended financial and national stability.”

Christodoulides reiterated he was available to discuss matters further, and stressed his readiness for another meeting “even today”. Disy confirmed it received the letter but did not comment further.

Neophytou met with both Christodoulides and Mavroyiannis yesterday when they discussed their potential cooperation.

Elsewhere, Mavroyiannis is expected to announce on Wednesday who he would pick as finance minister should he be elected president. That is likely an effort to soothe some accusations that Akel cannot be trusted with the economy.

The Akel-backed candidate has made clear he will not engage in any “bazaar-like bargaining” but would instead remain open to discuss things in a democratic manner. Though he is backed by Akel, the party said his election would not signify an Akel government. His campaign team has also stressed that ministerial posts will not be from Akel’s ranks.

It is understood that Anastasiades had pressed hard for Disy to back Christodoulides on Sunday night. Most ministers walked out of the meeting in apparent show of distaste, with only two remaining.

The Cyprus Mail reported on Monday that 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 groundwork and some ministries would be given to Disy.

The president has long been accused of merely paying lip service to Neophytou’s now-failed candidacy – accusations that Anastasiades vehemently denies.