In Cyprus, incumbent President Nicos Anastasiades will stay in office after competing against former-Health Minister Stavros Malas in a runoff election on February 4. This rematch of the previous presidential election came after neither candidate was able to secure the 50 percent vote threshold needed to win outright in the first round held on January 28.
Out of the nine candidates competing in the first round, Anastasiades, the leader of the conservative Democratic Rally Party, came in first with 35.5 percent while Malas received 30.25 percent. Despite running as an independent candidate, Malas had the backing of the left-wing Progressive Party of the Working People (AKEL). In third with 25.7 percent of the vote was populist Democratic Party candidate Nikolas Papadopoulos.
Papadopoulos campaigned on a hard-line approach to terms for reunification with Turkish Cyprus; his loss reflects the desire for reunification among the majority of Cypriot voters. Cyprus’ division dates back to 1974 when Turkish forces invaded and occupied part of the island in response to a right-wing coup in Greece aimed at ethnic unification. A spokesperson from the bicommunal organization Unite Cyprus Now explained that “two-thirds of Greek Cypriots went for candidates who openly support a federal settlement.” Both Anastasiades and Malas came out in support of a reunification solution based on the idea of a bizonal, bicommunal federation (BBF).
The second major issue for voters in this election was the state of Cyprus’ economy. Malas served as health minister under the AKEL government that was in charge from 2008 to 2013. The economy was on the brink of collapse when Anastasiades took over in 2013. Many Cypriots blame the AKEL government for their economic struggles, while Anastasiades has received credit for reversing the trend in recent years.
Anastasiades won the runoff with 56 percent of the vote and will serve a second five-year term. In his victory speech, Anastasiades told the crowd, “I will continue to be a president for all Cypriots. Tonight, there are no winners or losers, there is [only]a Cyprus for all of us.”