The incumbent president, Nicos Anastasiades, has topped the first round of the presidential election in Cyprus, according to exit polls. He will now face Stavros Malas, an independent candidate backed by the left-wing AKEL party in the second round, on February 4.
According to the public broadcaster, Anastasiades won between 38 percent and 42 percent of the vote, followed by Malas, a former minister for health, who took between 27 and 31 percent. The centrist Nikolas Papadopoulos, son of former president Tassos Papadopoulos, came third with between 21.5 percent and 24.5 percent.
Some 550,000 Cypriots went to the polls on Sunday to elect their president. Nicos Anastasiades was seeking a second term as head of the small EU country, that has been divided for more than forty years. The 71-year-old Conservative leader promises to restart reunification talks.
Those talks, which stalled after the collapse of UN-brokered negotiations in 2017, and the country’s economic recovery dominated the debate. But after decades of division, weariness has gained ground, and the president-elect faces a daunting challenge to convince more and more skeptics.
The election campaign was marked by a lack of public interest and voter apathy. A televised debate between the two leading candidates only took 9 percent of the audience share and voter turnout was estimated at around 30 percent on Sunday, down from 38 percent in last elections in 2013.
Due to the partition of the Mediterranean island, the Republic of Cyprus – a member of the eurozone – exercises its authority only on two-thirds of the territory, in the South, where the Greek Cypriots live. In the northern third are Turkish-Cypriots, who are administered by the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC), self-proclaimed republic recognised only by Ankara.