Cyprus Mail

Nail-biting end to bitter presidential campaign

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Andreas Mavroyiannis goes walkabout at Limassol old port on Saturday
Sour Disy split and suprise first-round Mavroyiannis victory set the stage

Betrayal, backroom dirty dealing, threats and political upsets – Sunday’s second round of the presidential election has it all.

Will Andreas Mavroyiannis prove every pollster wrong? Is there any credibility to the rumours of tactical voting by some in the Nikos Christodoulides camp?

These are just some of the questions to be answered by about 6:30pm on Sunday.

The 561,033 registered voters are to choose between former foreign minister and ex-Disy member Christodoulides, and former chief negotiator on the Cyprus problem, Akel-backed Mavroyiannis.

And it’s a lot closer than many thought: in the first round last Sunday Christodoulides secured 32.04 per cent with Mavroyiannis not far behind at 29.61 per cent.

But Christodoulides’ dramatic split from the government, after he was elbowed out from the foreign ministry

Nikos Christodoulides

amid speculation over his ambitions, has largely stolen the show throughout the long drawn-out campaign.

That has often made Disy’s civil war centre stage, even more so since the Disy leader Averof Neophytou was elbowed out of the first round.

Christodoulides, the ‘Teflon candidate’, has also managed to retain his clean image despite some heavy allegations.

Indeed, Christodoulides let one of his spin doctors go early in the campaign after it turned out that several of the candidate’s talking points were identical to those used by then-candidate Ioannis Kasoulides back in the 2008 election cycle.

Christodoulides also managed to ride out allegations of underhanded tactics, which included creating fake Facebook accounts tasked with ad hominem attacks on politicians and journalists alike.

The Disy civil war – fragmenting the party into fractious camps – was laid bare this week when its political bureau held a meeting to settle its stance ahead of Sunday.

It eventually decided on a conscience vote and a party place in opposition.

But a minister was mobbed, clips of shouting and swearing spread on social media, and a seven-hour delay marked the impasse facing the party.

The bitter divide took attention away from Mavroyiannis who beat many analysts’ expectations and comfortably cruised into the second round – knocking out Neophytou.

At first, not many were convinced of Mavroyiannis’ bid.

It took him time to find his feet but eventually the former diplomat seemed more comfortable in front of the cameras and in the debates.

And now he enters the second round with momentum on his side.

Veteran and well-respected ministers such as Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides and Finance Minister Constantinos Petrides have backed Mavroyiannis, some more explicitly than others.

Kasoulides forcefully made the argument for Mavroyiannis’ bid, centering his arguments on the Cyprus problem. Petrides, meanwhile, gave his backing for Mavroyiannis’ proposed finance minister – Charalambos Prountzos.

Commentators have viewed the ministers’ backing as “historic”, noting the arch rivalry between Disy and Akel.

Indeed, key Christodoulides backers such as Diko sought to revive those ghosts; invoking the spectre of communism to discredit Mavroyiannis’ candidacy.

Mavroyiannis hit back by reminding Diko’s Nicolas Papadopoulos that Tasos Papadopoulos had governed alongside Akel.

But Papadopoulos hit a nerve: the winner on Sunday is most likely to be decided by whom the Disy members back.

And they’ve got some soul searching to do.

It’s not clear yet, but many want to find out just how many Disy voters will seek to punish the “defector” Christodoulides by voting Mavroyiannis.

Other Disy members are comfortable in backing Mavroyiannis – assured by his past as a key diplomat with a firm Western outlook.

For many, however, the thought of Disy members playing a role in placing Akel near, or at, the levers of power is unconscionable.

To be sure, the independent candidates also have a role to play, but many will first look to see which way Elam voted; and how many.

The nationalist party received 23,988 ballots, or six per cent of the vote in the first round.

The party opted for a conscience vote in the second round, likely the best outcome for Christodoulides.

Mavroyiannis did not even respond to a list of Elam’s questions – while the party leader clearly stated that they do not want Akel in power.

Elam highlighted its differences between them and Christodouldies, but as the only other option on Sunday he will likely get by far most of their votes.

And without Elam publicly backing Christodoulides, the candidate avoids the toxic connotations by some of the nationalist party. Elam backing Christodoulides would likely have energised the left-wing vote to get off the sofa and turn out on Sunday.

With the results on Sunday, many will look to Monday and onwards to find out which of the two candidates will get to lead and pick the new government.

But Disy’s woes are unlikely to disappear any time soon, and many will be scrutinising how they steer their course in party opposition after ten years in power.


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