There is a new President in Cyprus. His name is Nicos Christodoulides. He was elected leader of the small EU country after winning Sunday’s run-off election. He defeated 66-year-old career diplomat Andreas Mavroyiannis. The 49-year-old president-elect won 51.9% of the total votes, while his rival won 48.1%.
“The current state of affairs is only worsening. That is why… we have a specific plan for how we will seek to break the impasse,” Christodoulides told reporters following the announcement of the result.
He promised to form an inclusive government that would be socially acceptable, with both genders equally represented.
“I will engage with political parties to appoint a council of ministers with a broad consensus,” Christodoulides continued. “My main objective is Cypriot reunification as soon as possible.”
On the other hand, Mavroyiannis conceded defeat and congratulated the winner, saying “a journey has ended.”
“I regret we couldn’t achieve the change that Cyprus needed,” Mavroyiannis said after the final result was announced. “I want to thank from the bottom of my soul all those who travelled with me.”
Christodoulides, the country’s former foreign minister, was a member of the conservative ruling DISY party before he defected to run as an independent candidate in the elections. During last week’s election, he scored 32 percent of the votes. Mavroyiannis also ran as an independent candidate, but he got the backing of the communist AKEL party. He scored 29.6 percent in last week’s voting, and since there was no clear winner, Sunday’s run-off election settled it all.
During Sunday’s run-off election, over 405,000 voters representing a 72.4 percent turnout, voted. The figure was a little bit higher than the turnout in the first round.
The Challenges awaiting the new leader
On March 1, Christodoulides would be sworn in as the country’s new president. Although small, the country has numerous challenges awaiting the 49-year-old former foreign minister. On top of the list is the responsibility of rescuing the dwindling economy affected by the pandemic and later, the war in Ukraine. The result is a high cost of living crisis and higher energy bills. Voters want the government to address the issue with urgency.
Other issues facing the country include immigration issues, where the country had to take in large numbers of asylum seekers. Voters want the government to tackle the issue before it gets out of hand.
The incoming government would have no choice but to address the issue of unimaginable corruption that has further widened the gap between the rich and the poor.
Vasso Pelekanou, a 47-year-old woman, said the last government abandoned the middle class and that she would want this government to prioritise them.
“The rich have become even richer,” she told Aljazeera.
Reuniting divided Cyprus
Originally, Cyprus is supposed to be one country. However, in 1974, following a Greek-sponsored Coup, Turkish forces invaded the country, forcing it to be shared into two parts. Only Turkey recognises the other part, which is named Northern Cyprus. Reuniting both parts of the country was an issue that divided voters during the past election. For some, there were enough internal challenges within the country to worry about the debate of reunification.
UN-led talks to reunify the country collapsed in 2017. Mavroyiannis, in his campaigns, said he would resume the talks immediately, but president-elect Christodoulides said talks would not resume unless the issues are renegotiated.
Following his victory in Sunday’s election, Nicos Christodoulides received congratulatory messages that included advice to resolve the issues.
Josep Borrel, the EU high representative, wrote: Dear Nikos Christodoulides, congratulations on your election as president of Cyprus. Looking forward to continue working together on important files for the EU and for the people of Cyprus, paving the way towards a solution of the Cyprus issue.”
President of Greece Katerina Sakellaropoulou called to congratulate the newest president in the world, stressing that “the Cyprus problem is a top national priority.”