Cyprus heads back to polls for presidential runoff
Nicosia: Greek Cypriots headed back to the polls on Sunday in a runoff presidential vote between an incumbent conservative pledging to re-energise talks at ending the island’s division, and a leftist opponent who accuses him of squandering chances of a deal.
Sunday’s ballot pits President Nicos Anastasiades, 71, against leftist-backed Stavros Malas, 50. Polling stations opened at 0500 GMT with exit polls giving a first snapshot of voting when they close at 1600 GMT. Results should be final a little over two hours after voting ends.
Both candidates appealed for people to vote after a high abstention rate in the first round of 28 percent.
“Don’t give up on the right to decide who the next president will be,” said Anastasiades. “Our country has problems and the input of all is needed, irrespective of who will win tonight,” he added.
“This election process concerns us all, all those who want to know what a European and multi-cultural state actually means,” said Malas after casting his ballot.
Anastasiades got 35.51 and Malas 30.24% of the vote in the first poll on 28 January, with the remainder cast among candidates who had taken a harder line than either in peace talks with estranged Turkish Cypriots.
Cyprus was split in a Turkish invasion in 1974 after a brief Greek-inspired coup, and the EU member state hosts one of the world’s longest serving peacekeeping forces with Greek Cypriots in the south, and Turkish Cypriots in the north.
Peace talks collapsed last year over the role that Turkey could play in a post-settlement Cyprus.
Anastasiades, who represented the Greek Cypriot side in those talks, faced criticism at home for either being too concessionary, or, as Malas suggests, tactical blunders in missing one of the best chances in a generation to solve the logjam.
Anastasiades denies both.
The runners-up from last week’s poll have refused to endorse either candidate, unusual in Cypriot election runoffs where the intervening week between votes is normally used to forge alliances.
“The new president will have a mandate directly from the people and not one via a politician seeking a share of the spoils,” the liberal Cyprus Mail daily wrote in an editorial, lauding the end of a ‘sheep mentality’ which guided voters in the past.