NEW YORK—The Cypriot presidential elections came to a close Sunday when incumbent Nicos Anastasiades of the conservative Democratic Rally Party handily defeated his top challenger Stavros Malas, an independent backed by the Progressive Party of Working People, in a run-off. Anastasiades had a 12-point lead when Malas conceded.
The election was considered an important one in regards to the nation’s decades-long peace process. Since 1974, Cyprus, a former British colony, has been divided along ethnic lines, with the northern portion of the island’s populated by Turkish Cypriots and the south by Greek Cypriots.
The division resulted from a military coup backed by the Greek government, which successfully removed the Cypriot government. Tensions between Greece and Turkey over Cyprus had been palpable for decades due to what the Turkish government viewed as discriminatory practices against Turkish Cypriots, but finally burst in response to the coup. Turkey quickly invaded Cyprus, occupying a fair portion of the island. Within a few months a ceasefire was called, the Greece-backed junta failed, and a democratic government was restored. But ethnic divisions remained in place and, in 1983, the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus was formed, though it is only recognized by Turkey.
While both Anastasiades and Malas promised to push the peace talks forward and support reunification, Malas had been critical of his opponents’ inability to find a solution in the past. There was hope that 2017 talks, mediated by the UN, would finally lead to a conclusion, but Anastasiades returned to Cyprus empty handed. According to Al Jazeera, Malas said that the president missed an “historic opportunity” to resolve the issue.
Notably, Nicholas Papadopoulos, Anastasiades’ other main contender who espouses more hardline nationalists views than either Anastasiades and Malas, failed to make the run-off, indicating that finding a solution to the peace process is a top priority.
Photo: Nicos Anastasiades at EPP HQ/European People’s Party (2011) Licensed Under Creative Commons