Nicos Christodoulides was elected president of Cyprus in the second and final round of voting on Sunday.
The former Cypriot foreign minister won 51.9 percent of support in a runoff vote that was much tighter than initially expected, according to results announced by Cyprus’ state broadcaster. He ran against career diplomat Andreas Mavrovanis who received 48.1 percent of the vote. The opening ceremony will be held on Sunday night.
Christodoulides, 49, hails from the ruling right-wing Democratic Rally Party (DISY), but ran as an independent with support from center and center-right parties. Mavroyiannis, 66, a former chief negotiator in peace talks with Turkish Cypriots and Cyprus’ former permanent representative to the United Nations, was also running as an independent with the support of the communist-rooted AKEL party.
The newly elected president will have tough challenges during his five-year term: navigating the country through evolving geopolitics; Dealing with growing financial problems and increasing immigration; improving a national image tarnished by corruption scandals; and finding a way to break an impasse in the reconciliation talks of ethnically divided Cyprus. Christodoulides is considered a hard-liner on the Cyprus reunification issue.
“The reunification of our country is a top priority for me,” he said in his first remarks after being elected.
Christodoulides consistently led all opinion polls during the election campaign, positioning himself as a candidate who could bridge party ties and unite a divided electorate.
He replaces outgoing conservative President Nicos Anastasiades, who led the Mediterranean island for a decade and cannot by law seek a third term. A close aide of Christodoulides Anastasiades, he served as his diplomatic advisor, government spokesman and then foreign minister.
When he announced his candidacy, Christodoulides broke ranks with his own party DISY and its leader, Averof Neofitou, thus splitting the conservative vote. This is the first time in its history that DISY has not made it to the runoff vote.
The fragmented party urged its members to vote according to their conscience, with some members calling Christodoulides a traitor, while others were particularly wary of the possibility of AKEL’s candidate being elected.
“The day after the election, those who supported me and those who did not will be contacted so that we can work together,” Christodoulides said last week. “The unity of DISY will not be affected; There is no question of division.”
“You don’t need to be in government to act responsibly for your country,” Neofitou said late Sunday. “New President Should Count on DISY Support.”
Cyprus has been divided into a Turkish Cypriot north and a Greek Cypriot south since Turkey invaded in 1974 in response to a Greek-backed coup. Ankara does not recognize the Republic of Cyprus, an EU member state that is otherwise internationally recognized as the sole sovereign authority of the entire island. Several attempts to reach a settlement over the years have failed, most recently in 2017.
The Turkish North has hardened its stance since the election of leader Ersin Tatar in 2020, insisting on a hard-liner two-state solution, even as the United Nations continues to push for a bi-communal federation.