Disy’s parliamentary leader and long-standing MP Nicos Tornaritis has come out in support of Nikos Christodoulides ahead of the second round of the presidential election.
Other big names to back the front-runner are former Health Minister Constantinos Ioannou, Agriculture Minister Costas Kadis and Education Minister Prodromos Prodromou.
Their taking positions in public comes just hours after a fiery Disy political bureau meeting which saw chaotic scenes as the party sought to clarify its position going into the second round – after its candidate Averof Neophytou was knocked out.
The backing of Christodoulides is in stark contrast to other key Disy heavy hitters such as veteran Finance Minister Constantinos Petrides.
“I’m glad to be seeing unity, the unity of Disy, and unity has a name: No to the defector,” he said, referring to Christodoulides.
The divided party found itself on shaky ground as it sought to answer a fractious three-part question. Should they support Andreas Mavroyiannis – seen as putting Akel in power – or former Disy member Christodoulides – denounced as a turncoat – or simply offer a free vote as part of the opposition?
The marathon meeting eventually backed a free vote and a party place in the opposition.
Arguing his case on social media, Tornaritis wrote: “If we truly had the solution to the Cyprus problem in front of us then I would be the first to advocate the Akel-backed candidate [former chief negotiator Andreas Mavroyiannis].
“Today, however, the scene is very different [and] everyone’s goal must be a strong economy and surely the European and Western path which our country is on,” Tornaritis said.
The comments drew mixed reaction with some interpreting them as the MP admitting that a solution to the Cyprus problem is no longer feasible – or at least not his main priority.
Kadis on Wednesday officially came out in support for Christodoulides.
But former finance minister and Disy deputy leader Haris Georgiades urged his fellow party seniors to avoid making public pronouncements as to which of the two remaining candidates they will back.
He was asked, however, by Alpha as to the strong backing that Akel-backed Mavroyiannis received during Tuesday night’s tumultuous meeting of Disy’s political bureau.
Georgiades emphasised that the 151 members at the meeting were free and welcome to express their opinions, but instead sought to emphasise that the decision was a free vote and a party place in opposition.
“We are talking about responsible opposition, and not just opposition for the sake of it,” he said.
That hints at the tricky spot Disy may find itself in, given that prominent MPs such as Tornaritis are publicly backing Christodoulides while the party will officially be in opposition.
Interior Minister Nicos Nouris followed Georgiades’ line, refusing to state publicly for whom he will vote on Sunday.
“I will vote for the candidate I deem most suitable,” he said, but explained that Disy chose on Tuesday night a free vote.
He reasoned that by stating whom he will vote for would unfairly influence the Disy backers.
Notably, however, Mavroyiannis had a strong backing from key Disy players.
Among them are Paphos mayor Phedonas Phedonos – whose district overwhelmingly backed Christodoulides. But Phedonos instead argued that Disy should officially back Mavroyiannis.
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.
President Nicos Anastasiades did not attend the meeting as scheduled, with some saying “just as well” after 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.
Elsewhere, Nouris refused to answer explicitly as to whether he will run in the upcoming Disy leader elections.
“Everything in its own time, for now we have presidential elections,” the minister said.
He was asked after Neophytou called a Disy leader election on March 11, stating that he will again run.