Greek Cypriot president wins second term



Nicos Anastasiades won re-election as Greek Cypriot leader since voters gave a thumbs-up to his record in containing an economic meltdown in 2013 and conducting abortive peace talks with the Turkish Cypriots.

Greek Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades on Sunday won re-election for a second term, seeing off a leftist challenger with vows to restart talks to unify the island and cement an economic recovery.

Anastasiades beat leftist challenger Stavros Malas to win a second round run-off on Sunday with 55.99 percent of the vote following a campaign portraying the incumbent as a steady pair of hands.

Apathy has been on the rise after a lacklustre campaign – especially among young voters – and the final official turnout stood at 73 percent.

Jubilant supporters of Anastasiades began to gather at the inauguration venue in Nicosia ahead of a swearing-in ceremony.

“I was confident because people could see all he has done during the past five years and see that he is the man the country needs,” lawyer Christina Zikkou said.

Defeated Malas said the result was “disappointing but we have to accept it”.

“The struggle for social justice and the Cyprus problem does not end with these elections…our fight is not lost,” he said.

TRT World’s Iolo ap Dafydd has more.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker congratulated Anastasiades and said he hoped the victor would “continue to pursue… the policies that have steered Cyprus on the path of economic growth.”

“I would also like to take this opportunity to assure you that I stand ready as ever to assist in the efforts to bring to an end the division of the island and achieve the reunification of Cyprus,” Juncker said in a message.

Although he failed to achieve a breakthrough on reunification, Anastasiades won plaudits during his first term as president for steadying an economy that was in the midst of a dramatic meltdown when he took over in 2013.

Reunification push? 

As ever, the nearly 44-year division of the eastern Mediterranean island between the internationally recognised Republic of Cyprus in the south and Turkish-backed Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) in the north loomed large over the vote.

Anastasiades, 71, has pledged fresh talks with Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci despite the acrimonious collapse last July of UN-backed negotiations that came closer than ever to sealing a deal.

Dovish former health minister Malas, 50, had slammed his opponent for not going far enough to achieve a deal – but voters appeared unwilling to take the risk on the challenger.

Despite the promises of a new peace push, there is deep scepticism that any progress can be made to overcome issues including the presence of 40,000 Turkish troops in the north.

“The wider political framework in which this president comes to power is not conducive for a settlement,” said University of Nicosia professor Hubert Faustmann.

Cyprus has been divided since 1974 when a Greek Cypriot coup was followed by violence against the Island’s Turks, and Ankara’s intervention as a guarantor power.

Cyprus has seen an on-and-off peace process in recent years, including the latest initiative in Switzerland under the auspices of guarantor countries Turkey, Greece and the UK collapsing in 2017.

Economic issues 

This time around the economy was a dominant issue for the roughly 550,000-strong Greek Cypriot electorate as the island recovers from a 2013 financial crisis.

Anastasiades has claimed credit for an impressive recovery since agreeing a harsh more than $12-billion (10-billion euro) bailout just weeks after taking power.

But major challenges remain, despite record numbers of tourists.

The economy is still smaller than before 2013, employment remains around 11 percent and banks are awash with bad loans.

Exploration is going on for oil and gas off the island’s shores that the authorities hope could boost their coffers.

AKEL – the left-wing party backing Malas – was in charge ahead of the crisis and is widely held responsible for tanking the economy.


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