Voting begins in close presidential runoff election in Cyprus

Nicosia, Feb 12 (EFE).- Polling stations opened on Sunday for the presidential election runoff in Cyprus between former Foreign Minister Nikos Christodoulides and career diplomat Andreas Mavroyiannis.

Around 560,000 people are eligible to cast their ballots in the 1,150 polling booths, which opened at 7 am and will close at 6 pm. The final results are expected to be released a few hours after the end of voting.

Another 35 polling stations have been set up in other countries, including Greece and the United Kingdom, where a large number of Cypriots with voting rights live.

Christodoulides won the first round of the elections, held on Feb. 5, with 32 percent of the votes, while Mavroyiannis obtained 29.5 percent. Both candidates are running as independents.

For the second round, Christodoulides has received the support of several right-wing parties, while Mavroyiannis is backed by left-wing parties, and may capture part of the conservative vote.

The elections are marked by a split in the conservative DISY party, of incumbent President Nicos Anastasiades.

Christodoulides was expelled from the party last month for “betraying” the party’s internal line by declaring his candidacy when the DISY had already chosen its leader, Averof Neofytou, as its presidential candidate.

The former foreign minister advanced to the second round while Neofytou failed to make the runoff, which led some DISY leaders to suggest that they would vote for his rival.

Therefore, Mavroyiannis expects not only the support of the progressive vote but also a part of the vote that went to DISY in the first round.

The main challenges before the new president will be cleaning up the country’s image – after and amid multiple corruption scandals – and continuing the difficult negotiations with an eye toward the island’s reunification.

The island is divided between the Republic of Cyprus, a member of the European Union since 2004, and the de-facto Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus – recognized only by Ankara – formed after the 1974 Turkish invasion and subsequent occupation of 36 percent of the island. EFE


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