Saturday

19th Sep 2020

Cyprus' deja-vu choice for president

  • Incumbent president Anastasiades presents himself as a guarantee of stability (Photo: Anastasiades/Facebook)

Greek Cypriots will elect their president on Sunday (4 February), facing the same choice as at the previous vote five years ago.

Incumbent president Nikos Anastasiades, from the centre-right Democratic Rally (Disy) is seen as the favourite to win a second term against Stavros Malas, an independent candidate who is backed by the Communist Progressive Party of Working People (Akel).

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  • The challenger Malas says Anastasiades missed an historic chance for peace with the Turkish Cypriots (Photo: Malas/Facebook)

The right against left run-off is as much about the economy as about the future of peace talks with the northern part of the island.

In a TV debate on Wednesday, Malas criticised Anastasiades' handling of the economy, both under an international bailout from 2013 to 2016, and since the end of the programme.

He said Anastasiades worsened conditions for the lower and middle classes and imposed "mediaeval conditions in the labour market".

Anastasiades presented itself as a guarantee for economic stability, with a 3.5-percent growth forecasted for this year and rising employment.

"This is not the time to experiment," he said after the first round last Sunday (28 January).

"Either we choose potential for tomorrow or a move that has caused bankruptcy," he said, referring to the Akel government that was in place when the financial crisis started, that led to the bailout.

The two candidates also quarrelled over the peace process with the Turkish Cypriots, after an UN-led effort failed last year.

During the campaign, Malas has argued that Anastasiades missed an historic opportunity to reach an agreement with the Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci. He has said that if he was elected, he would launch a new round of negotiations.

Anastasiades, who has blamed Turkey for refusing to leave the 35,000 soldiers it maintains in northern Cyprus since 1974, has argued that he was the best-placed to resume the talks but has not said if he would do it differently.

"Unless there is a change of approach, more broadly, by the Greek Cypriots, it doesn't matter who comes to power," Amanda Paul, from the EPC think tank, told EUobserver before the first round of voting.

"The same things would happen. Talks and talks and talks, and then nothing."

The runoff in the southern part of the island comes as a government is being formed in the northern part, almost a month after elections early January.

The vote was won by the National Unity Party (UBP), which is critical over the peace process. But this week, four parties agreed to form a coalition led by Tufan Erhurman, from the Republican Turkish Party (CTP) of the entity's leader Akinci.

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