Nicos Anastasiades re-elected by Greek Cypriots as their eighth president
Result is seen as a ringing endorsement of his stable leadership over the past five years
Nicos Anastasiades waves to his supporters after he voted in the presidential elections in southern coastal city of Limassol, Cyprus, on Sunday. Photograph: Petros Karadjias/AP Photo
Greek Cypriots have re-elected Nicos Anastasiades as their eighth president in what is seen as a ringing endorsement of his stable leadership over the past five years.
The 71-year-old conservative won a second five-year term on Sunday with 56 per cent of the vote. His opponent, the leftist-backed independent Stavros Malas, took 44 per cent.
There were scenes of jubilation in Nicosia as news of the incumbent’s 12-point lead reached the campaign headquarters of Anastasiades’ Democratic Rally party (Dysi). Supporters poured on to the streets holding Cypriot, Greek and party flags, chanting slogans and honking horns. “Victory is a beautiful thing,” enthused Christos Papamichael, a Dysi party cadre. Anastasiades, who has vowed to reactivate peace talks aimed at reunifying Cyprus, had long been the frontrunner of a lacklustre electoral campaign marked by voter abstention. But suspense had hovered over Sunday’s run-off after an inconclusive first round in which Malas gained an unexpected 30.2 per cent of the vote.
The strong performance had sparked enthusiasm that the 50-year-old geneticist, who was running with the backing of the Progressive Party of Working People, Akel, could defy polls and score a spectacular upset. In the end, the electorate, putting financial consideration first, went for Antastasiades, who has been widely credited with navigating Cyprus’ extraordinary economic recovery since he took over the country, amid scenes of chaos, in 2013.
His victory amounted to vindication of policies that, far from popular, had put the island back on a sustainable path following the collapse of its banking system and a €10 billion EU-IMF-sponsored bailout. At nearly 4 per cent, Cyprus had the euro zone’s highest growth rate in 2017. “On the economy he has done very, very, very, well,” said Giorgos Skoufaris, a pensioner, flicking a set of worry beads after casting his ballot.
“So why not give him our vote especially when he has said this will be his last term?”
The banking crisis , blamed squarely on the ineptitude of the then Akel government, had been the most traumatic event to befall Cyprus since the Turkish invasion in 1974. In an unprecedented step, depositors were forced to foot the bill of the EU rescue programme with savings over €100,000 automatically slashed from bank accounts. Anastasiades’ deft handling of the crisis could now give him the space to focus on finally healing the Mediterranean island’s division. Efforts to reunify Cyprus, split between Greeks in the south and Turks in the north, have eluded peacemakers since Ankara ordered a full-scale military invasion, seizing the island’s northern third after a coup aimed at union with Greece. Negotiations are believed to have come close to reunifying the two communities before collapsing acrimoniously in Switzerland last July.
“There will now be continuity, which is a positive thing, for the economy, for the prospect of a solution and for the EU’s role in the eastern Mediterranean,” said Cleopatra Kitti, an international consultant based in Nicosia who advises corporations and governments. “Partition is unsustainable. I think Anastasiades is smart enough to realise that there needs to be a deal, that this cannot go on, that without it there is bound to be some kind of conflict.” Anastasiades has repeatedly said he wants reunification despite upsetting pro-solution Cypriots when the UN-mediated talks broke down and he left the negotiating table last summer. “The status quo is unacceptable and its prolongation will have negative consequences for the Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots,” the lobby group Unite Cyprus Now said in a statement congratulating the president. “Let us not hold our bright future hostage to our troubled past.” – (Guardian)