Nikos Christodoulides was elected president of Cyprus in the second and final round of voting on Sunday.
The former Cypriot foreign minister garnered 51.9 percent support in a runoff vote that was much tighter than initially expected, according to results announced by the state broadcaster of Cyprus. He was running against career diplomat Andreas Mavroyiannis who got 48.1 percent of vote. The inauguration ceremony will take place later Sunday night.
Christodoulides, 49, comes from the ruling right-wing Democratic Rally party (DISY), but was running as an independent, with the backing of the center and center-right parties. Mavroyiannis, 66, a former chief negotiator in peace talks with Turkish Cypriots and a former permanent representative of Cyprus to the United Nations, was also running as an independent with the backing of the communist-rooted AKEL party.
The newly elected president will have difficult challenges over his five-year term: steering the country through evolving geopolitics; tackling growing financial woes and a surge in migration; improving a national image stained by corruption scandals; and finding a way to break a deadlock in the reunification talks on the ethnically split Cyprus. Christodoulides is considered a hard-liner regarding the Cyprus reunification issue.
“The reunification of our country is a top priority for me,” he said in first comments after being elected.
Christodoulides consistently led all opinion polls during the election campaign, positioning himself as a candidate who can bridge party affiliations and unite the splintered electorate.
He succeeds outgoing conservative President Nicos Anastasiades, who has been at the helm of the Mediterranean island for a decade and by law could not seek a third term. Christodoulides has been one of Anastasiades’ closest associates, having served as his diplomatic adviser, government spokesman and then foreign minister.
When he announced his candidacy, Christodoulides broke ranks with his own party DISY and its leader, Averof Neofytou, thus splitting the conservative vote. It is the first time in its history that DISY didn’t make it to the runoff vote.
The fragmented party called on its members to vote according to their conscience, with some its members calling Christodoulides a traitor, while others appeared particularly wary of the possibility of AKEL’s candidate being elected.
“The day after the elections, those who supported me and those who didn’t will be approached so that we can work collectively,” Christodoulides said last week. “The unity of DISY will not be affected; there is no question of split.”
“You don’t need to be in government to behave responsibly for your country,” Neofytou said late on Sunday. “The new president should count on DISY support.”
Cyprus has been divided into a Turkish Cypriot north and a Greek Cypriot south since Turkey’s 1974 invasion, which came in response to a Greece-backed coup. Ankara does not recognize the Republic of Cyprus, an EU member state that is otherwise recognized internationally as the sole sovereign authority over the whole island. Several attempts to find a compromise settlement over the years have failed, the last one in 2017.
The Turkish north has toughened its stance since the election of leader Ersin Tatar in 2020, a hard-liner insisting on a two-state solution, even as the United Nations continues to push for a bi-communal federation.