© Reuters. Supporters of Cyprus presidential candidate Nikos Christodoulides are seen in front of a poster, at the campaign headquarters a day ahead of the presidential elections, in Nicosia, Cyprus, February 11, 2023. REUTERS/Louiza Vradi
By Michele Kambas
NICOSIA (Reuters) -Nikos Christodoulides won the Cyprus presidential election on Sunday after a second and final round of voting, promising a unity government tasked with breaking a deadlock in peace talks with estranged Turkish Cypriots.
Official results showed Christodoulides, 49, taking 51.9% of the vote, compared with runoff rival Andreas Mavroyiannis, 66, taking 48.1%. The winner will be formally proclaimed at 1800 GMT.
Sunday’s vote pitted Christodoulides, a former foreign minister, against career diplomat Mavroyiannis, a former chief negotiator in the peace talks with Turkish Cypriots and a former permanent representative of Cyprus to the United Nations.
Christodoulides ran as an independent with the backing of centrist and right-of-centre parties.
But he broke ranks with his own party, the right-wing DISY, causing fissures in the dominant Cypriot political grouping which had backed its leader who was eliminated in the first knock-out race last weekend.
“What is most important is that the day after the elections we are all united,” Christodoulides said earlier as he cast his vote.
Christodoulides has frequently been in the public eye in the past decade, either as government spokesman or as foreign minister until early 2022, with the persona of a young, energetic politician offering fresh ideas.
Mavroyiannis conceded defeat and congratulated Christodoulides. “Tonight is the end of a long but nice journey … I want to thank from the bottom of my soul all those who travelled with me,” he said.
The next president faces problems ranging from a deadlock in reunification talks with Turkish Cypriots on the ethnically divided island, and labour disputes amid runaway inflation, to the fallout from corruption scandals and a spike in migration that has left authorities coping with thousands of asylum applications.
Presidential elections are held once every five years. Nicos Anastasiades, a conservative of the ruling DISY party, has been in power since 2013, having been re-elected in 2018. By law, he cannot seek a third term.
Cyprus’s division for more than half a century loomed large over the campaign. The island has been divided since a 1974 Turkish invasion, triggered by a coup instigated by Greece’s then-ruling military junta, though the seeds of division were sown earlier.
The last round of peace talks collapsed in disarray in mid 2017. Christodoulides says he wants to resume talks, but says a United Nations framework governing talks, issued in 2017, should be renegotiated.