Mon, Feb 05, 2018 - Page 5 News List

Cyprus heads back to polls for runoff

Reuters, NICOSIA

A voter casts his ballot at a polling station in the coastal city of Limassol in Cyprus yesterday.

Photo: AFP

Greek Cypriots yesterday headed back to the polls in a runoff presidential vote between an incumbent conservative pledging to re-energize talks at ending the island’s division and a leftist opponent who accuses him of squandering chances of a deal.

The ballot pits Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades, 71, against leftist-backed Stavros Malas.

Anastasiades got 35.51 and Malas 30.24 percent of the vote in the first round of elections on Sunday last week, with the remaining cast among candidates who had taken a harder line than either in peace talks with estranged Turkish Cypriots.

However, many voters also preferred to stay away, with the abstention rate at 28 percent.

“I voted for Anastasiades as I think he is the perfect choice to run the country at this time,” gasoline station owner George Souglis, 73, told reporters at a polling station in Nicosia yesterday. “In the future he will continue to do a lot on the economy and Cyprus problem.”

Not everyone appeared so convinced by the incumbent.

“We need a change,” said Nikolas Petros, 67, who had to close his business due to the economic troubles.

“In politics, especially the Cyprus issue, it has just been promises, promises. On the economy we have had too many problems.”

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 last year collapsed 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.

Additional reporting by AFP

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