Cypriot President and conservative DISY leader Nikos Anastasiadis, and Stavros Malas, the candidate of the communist-rooted AKEL party are scampering to forge alliances with smaller parties, ahead of the second round of presidential elections on 4 February.
In a field of nine candidates, Anastasiadis placed first, as expected, with 35.51 percent of the vote, and Malas second, with 30.24 percent of the vote, a smaller margin than many expected, suggesting that the second round may be a real derby.
The two had faced off in the second round of the last presidential elections in 2013, when Anastasiadis had a more comfortable lead.
The two candidates will hold talks with their erstwhile competitors and the parties that supported them, beginning today and tomorrow.
The results were a stinging defeat for centrist DIKO leader Nikolas Papadopoulos, son of the late Tasos Papadopoulos who rejected the Annan Cyprus settlement plan in 2004. He retains a hard line on the Cyprus problem, and placed third with 25.74 percent of the vote.
More impressive perhaps was the high level of voter abstention, which reached 28.13 percent of the electorate.
Second round derby
With the spread between the two candidates just 5.27 percentage points, all eyes will be on Wednesday’s televised debate between the two second round candidates.
Malas has said he rules out any cooperation with Christos Christou’s nationalist ELAM party, which placed fourth, with 5.65 percent of the vote.
Anastasiadis said he seeks to form a government with the broadest popular support.
Papadopoulos’ support base key
It is unclear whether Papadopoulos will be lending his support to either of the candidates. The head of his campaign, Chrysis Pantelidis, said that both second round candidates are ‘’equally unqualified to serve as president’’.
‘’They have identical positions on the Cyprus problem, and are diametrically opposed to Nikolas Papadopoulos’ position, and they are unfit to manage issues of domestic governance,’’ Pantelidis said.
Pantelidis said that there will be a meeting of all parties that cooperated with DIKO in the first round, and that it would be well if they could forge a common position ahead of the second round.
He underlined that each of the four parties retains its autonomy, and their decisions will be respected.
Anastasiadis, Malas seek broad support
The Anastasiadis campaign said the first round results represent a ‘’strong mandate’’ for the sitting president to continue the work he began five years ago.
AKEL party spokesman Stefanos Stefanou attributed Malas’ strong first round showing to a pluralistic base of support and to the fact that AKEL was able to rally its base successfully.
He said that Malas will pursue a ‘’great, creative change, through a broad social alliance’’, and will not follow the route of backroom deals and transformations in the days before the second round.