House President Annita Demetriou on Saturday made history as the first woman to be elected as leader of the Disy party since its founding in 1976 by former president Glafcos Clerides.

Demetriou beat out her namesake Demetris Demetriou, a party MP and former spokesman for Disy. He called her before the official announcement to congratulate her on her new win.

The official results, announced just before 8.30pm said Demetriou had won 69.18 per cent of the vote to her rival’s 30.82 per cent. She secured 14,287 votes, more than double of Demetris Demetriou’s 6,365.

Flanked by her husband, outgoing party leader Averof Neophytou and her rival Demetriou, she had her arms around her mother before making her speech.

“There are no winners or losers tonight. Disy is the winner. We move forward towards unity and strength.”

She thanked “the wonderful world of Disy” stressing the party needed its historic members, its youth “and each and every one of you individually.” She assured party members of her commitment and dedication. “Now the hard work begins.”

President Nikos Christodoulides called her to extend his congratulations.

Her rival Demetris Demetriou was the first to make a speech, thanking the new party leader for “the beautiful journey we had”. He assured her he would be by her side “to make Disy the dominant political party power of the country.”

The MP added the election race were the first steps “to heal the wounds that began a few months ago” and thanked those who supported him, even when the polls showed the odds were not in his favour.

“Allow me to say my candidacy was the catalyst in achieving renewal for the party.” Demetris Demetriou had been the first to throw his hat in the running, as opposed to his rival who announced in on the last day of candidacy submissions.

He thanked Neophytou for all the support he had shown him over the past few years. “Whatever differences we had, they do not diminish my respect and they belong in the past.”

Neophytou, who took the stage before handing over to Annita Demetriou, said “for those that thought they could split the party, Disy’s roots run deep.” Turning to her, he pledged: “I want to promise you one thing. You don’t need my advice or my guidance. Consider it a given that you have our support.”

The fragmented party headed to the polls to vote for new leadership that members hope will bring unity after a rocky ride during this year’s presidential elections. Around 50,000 members were eligible to vote.

Nonetheless, voter turnout at 41 per cent was “unprecedented” corresponding to 20,708 members . The majority of voters were from the Larnaca district, accounting for 47 per cent, with 3,092 voters. Famagusta followed suit with 45 per cent and 3,000 voters.

Nicosia saw 42 per cent of voter turnout which translated to the highest concentration of voters at 7,578. Limassol and Paphos both had 39 per cent, corresponding to 4,532 and 2,305 respectively. Voters abroad accounted for 10 per cent of the votes or 201 ballots.

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Averof Neophytou (Photo: Christos Theodorides)

Neophytou who announced he was stepping down last month, told reporters when he went to cast his ballot, that “unity is not a figure of speech for us.” Disy was voting for its new leadership and he was sure “the historic party will continue to be a pioneering power.”

Asked what advice he would give to the new party leader, Neophytou said “I don’t belong to this school of thought. Don’t confuse me with others. The new leader, whoever it is will have their own style and we will support them. These old-fashioned ideas of being behind-the-scenes and advising, pulling the reins and being a guarantor for unity, this isn’t for Averof.”

His statements appeared to be a dig at former President Nicos Anastasiades, who he had previously accused of appearing to undermine his candidacy for the presidential elections.

Casting his own vote, Anastasiades said “the old generation is handing over to the new generation.” The two candidates are respected and young people, seeking the party’s leadership.

“I have no doubt that whichever of the two wins, the path of party will continue to be pioneering.”

Voting began at 9am and ended at 6pm without a break, across 79 voting stations across Cyprus. There was one polling station in Athens, Thessaloniki and London.

The voting centre in London closed at 4pm local time. There were 28 polling stations in Nicosia, 22 in Larnaca and Famagusta, 18 in Limassol and eight in Paphos.

The voting process was overseen by the election committee comprised of Xenia Constantinou, Chris Triantafyllides, Andreas Stavrinides and Demetris Demetiou.

Read a full profile of Annita Demetriou’s political journey here and that of Demetris Demetriou’s here.

 

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The two rival Demetrious (Christos Theodorides)