The two presidential candidates, independent Nikos Christodoulides and Akel-backed Andreas Mavroyiannis battled it out in a final debate on CyBC TV on Friday night.
The debate started with each candidate defending their cachet within the EU sphere, with Christodoulides announcing he has been openly approached and backed by three political groups. Mavroyiannis countered that he had the confidence of many contacts within the EU but could not be pressed into naming any particular groups as he considered this a nonsensical topic.
Asked why members of Disy should back each candidate, independent Christodoulides said that he would have liked ruling Disy to support him but he respected the party’s decision to opt for a conscience vote in Sunday’s second round of the elections. Christodoulides, a former Disy member who is supported by Diko, Edek and Depa said however that Disy’s positions were much closer to his than to Mavroyiannis.
Asked whether he identifies Mavroyiannis with left-wing Akel, Christodoulides said he did not, but that Mavroyiannis had admitted that if he didn’t have Akel’s support, he would not have run. “My candidacy was not at the behest of any party,” Christodoulides said.
“I would like DISY to support me. Their decision is completely respected. Their support is important, but their decision to take on the role of a constructive opposition is also very important,” he added.
He was also asked why Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides did not support him and has come out in favour of Mavroyiannis, to which Christodoulides responded: “You will have to ask him that question. With absolute respect, he should tell us why there are differences between his previous statements when he was handing over the ministry of foreign affairs to me and when I was handing it over to him”.
Disy’s decision to opt for a free vote has split the party with senior figures coming out publicly in favour of each candidate.
Asked whether he considered himself responsible for the situation within his former party, Christodoulides said he had never hidden his political background “and I don’t like to see these public confrontations”.
“Disy is not going to split Tomorrow it will be stronger. We are closer to Disy on many issues, on the Cyprus issue, on the economy and immigration. If I have a responsibility, I will take it,” he added.
Mavroyiannis, also asked why Disy members should support a person widely seen as an Akel candidate, said: “This is our chance to turn the page. I think Disy is interested in the solution of the Cypriot issue and this vision connects us, and everyone is interested in fighting corruption.”
The candidates were asked several questions on corruption and pressed to answer whether they possessed the political will to pursue and end to corruption no matter how high it was proven to reach, whether as high as the president or within Akel.
Both candidates claimed zero tolerance with Mavroyiannis saying he detested populism and he would not prevent any institution from investigating. “The knife will be put to the bone” he said, and citizens have a right to finally have the law be the same for everyone.
Christodoulides said he supported zero tolerance but he hoped it would not be a matter of political will but of correctly functioning institutions. “The institutions should function and the executive power not to intervene, this is the rule of law,” he said.
Speaking about their relationship with the outgoing president, Nicos Anastasiades, and asked whether they viewed him as a role model or as a cautionary figure, Christodoulides said Anastasiades had placed his confidence in him in various positions and that he was not one to rubbish everything the previous government had done. He said he would build on the positives of the Anastasiades government which were multiple and achieved during a difficult time.
“Yes, serious mistakes were also made and my government will correct them,” he stated.
Mavroyiannis answered that the mistakes “did not come from Mars” and reproached Christodoulides for his language covering up what happened. “The cooperation I had in my work as a negotiator with Mr. Anastasiades was excellent,” Mavroyiannis said, and continued that he had also collaborated with Glafcos Clerides, George Vassiliou, Tassos Papadopoulos and Demetris Christofias and would take the best from each of them.
He also weighed on the concerns voters might have as to Akel and the economy in the wake of near collapse of the economy in 2013 under an Akel government. The candidate has already announced his pick for finance minister “who has a direct relationship with business, the green transition and energy”. “Under my governance, everyone can have an opinion but the final decisions rest with me. Akel has never sought a decisive role in my decisions,” he added.