Sun Sentinel Palm Beach Edition
Cyprus’ president-elect vows to restart reunification talks
NICOSIA, Cyprus — Former foreign minister Nikos Christodoulides was elected as the new president of Cyprus in a runoff election Sunday, pledging to revive stalemated reunification talks with the nation’s breakaway Turkish Cypriots and to form a coalition government with women filling half of the Cabinet positions.
With 100% of ballots counted, Christodoulides had 51.9% of the vote and his runoff rival, veteran diplomat Andreas Mavroyiannis, had 48.1%, according to official election results. Mavroyiannis conceded defeat before the vote tally was complete.
Christodoulides, 49, campaigned as a unifying force for ethnically divided Cyprus, eschewing ideological and party divisions. His message resonated with a wide swath of voters.
“I’m looking you all in the eye, and I sincerely make you this promise: I’ll do everything I can to appear worthy of your trust,” Christodoulides told supporters at his victory rally.
He made a special reference to the devastating earthquakes in Turkey and Syria. Turkish Cypriots, including members of a volleyball team, were among the more than 33,000 people declared dead in the disaster as of Sunday.
“We share in their mourning, and I want to assure them that we stand by their side,” the president-elect said.
Mavroyiannis, who previously served as Cyprus’ ambassador to the United Nations, had positioned himself as the agent of change following a decade of rule by outgoing President Nicos Anastasiades.
Christodoulides appeared to have won with support from members of the Democratic Rally (DISY) party, whose leader, Averof Neophytou, failed to make it into the runoff. The DISY leadership decided not to formally back either candidate and left it to members of the country’s largest party to vote as they saw fit.
Many DISY party insiders had blamed Christodoulides, a longtime party member, for running against Neophytou and splitting the party vote.
However, many did not want the AKEL party, Mavroyiannis’ main backer, to regain a foothold in government and feared that as the next president of Cyprus he would threaten the country’s fragile economy and pro-Western trajectory.
Critics fault the communist-rooted AKEL, the country’s second-largest political party, for bringing Cyprus to the brink of bankruptcy a decade ago and for maintaining a pro-Moscow slant.
Amid the bickering within DISY, Anastasiades, a former party leader, took the unusual step of issuing a statement suggesting that DISY members should work to thwart an AKELbacked government.
Christoulides inherits the challenge of trying to restart moribund peace talks with the country’s Turkish Cypriots, who declared independence nearly a decade after a 1974 Turkish invasion that followed a coup aimed at union with Greece.