Reunification Isn’t on the Ballot in Cyprus’ Presidential Election

Reunification Isn’t on the Ballot in Cyprus’ Presidential Election
A man walks with his dog in front of a banner showing the divided island of Cyprus, in Nicosia, Cyprus, Jan. 27, 2023 (AP photo by Petros Karadjias).

On Feb. 5, Greek Cypriots will go to the polls for the first round of the country’s presidential election, followed by a second-round runoff a week thereafter should no candidate win an outright majority. With incumbent President Nikos Anastasiadis stepping down after 10 years in office, by the end of next month the Republic of Cyprus—or the two-thirds of the island under the effective control of the internationally recognized government—will have a new leader.

At one level, the campaign mirrors the political debates seen elsewhere in Europe. The rising cost of living, growing immigration and increasing populism have all featured heavily. But there have also been local issues. Stamping out corruption, in particular, has been a talking point, especially in light of the fallout from the now defunct and discredited “Gold Passports” scheme. That program saw Cypriot citizenship—and thus highly valued European Union citizenship—handed out to almost anyone with a couple of million euros to spare.

While 14 candidates have thrown their hat into the ring, just three have any realistic hope of winning. The first is Averoff Neophytou. As the leader of the center-right DISY, the largest Greek Cypriot political party, he would usually be expected to receive roughly a third of the vote. Then there is Andreas Mavroyiannis. A former career diplomat, he is backed by AKEL, the communist party, which generally represents about a quarter of the electorate. Finally, there’s Nikos Christodoulides. The former foreign minister is running as an independent, albeit backed by the third-largest party, DIKO, which usually receives between 10 and 15 percent of the vote.

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