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Cyprus heads to polls to pick new president with runoff expected

2023-02-05T01:14:21Z

Cyprus votes on Sunday for a new president in an election unlikely to produce a clear winner, setting the stage for a runoff on Feb. 12.

Heralding the end of two terms for incumbent conservative President Nicos Anastasiades, some 561,000 Greek Cypriots will be called to vote after a campaign dominated by corruption scandals, a deadlocked peace process, labour disputes over high inflation and irregular migration.

With 14 candidates in the running, Sunday’s poll will likely be a race between three frontrunners: former foreign minister Nikos Christodouldes, who is leading opinion polls, right-wing DISY party leader Averof Neophytou, and career diplomat Andreas Mavroyiannis backed by the leftist AKEL party.

Polling stations will open at 0500 GMT and close at 1600 GMT, with the result expected within two hours of stations closing.

Opinion polls suggest none of the frontrunners will muster an outright majority, leading to a runoff. All three main contenders have been close associates of Anastasiades, who cannot contest a third five-year term.

Fiona Mullen, director of Sapienta Economics, said there was a perception that irrespective of who wins there would be a continuation of Anastasiades’s policies.

“I think that is probably least in the case of Mavroyiannis, more in the case of Christodoulides,” she said. “On foreign policy I think Christodoulides is going to be closer to how Anastasiades has been in his final years,” she added, calling that policy “more assertive”.

In 2020, while Christodoulides was foreign minister, Cyprus held out on EU sanctions against Belarus for about a month because it wanted more action from Europe against Turkey.

Cyprus has complied with all EU sanctions against Russia, a close ally, following the war in Ukraine.

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A woman walks next to a poster of Cypriot presidential candidate Nikos Christodoulides in Nicosia, Cyprus February 2, 2023. REUTERS/Yiannis Kourtoglou

Cyprus presidential candidate Averof Neophytou, head of the governing right-wing Democratic Rally party, delivers a speech during a pre-election rally in Nicosia, Cyprus February 2, 2023. REUTERS/Yiannis Kourtoglou