Ruling SYRIZA expressed its support on Monday for communist-backed Stavros Malas, a former health minister, ahead of Sunday’s runoff vote in Cyprus’s presidential elections.
In a statement after last Sunday’s election result showed that incumbent Nicos Anastasiades and Malas will face off in a runoff, the left-wing party described Malas’s stronger-than-expected showing as an “especially important development.”
Anastasiades, from the center-right Democratic Rally, garnered 35.5 percent of the vote, ahead of Malas on 30.24 percent in an election that could prove pivotal in the effort to reunite Cyprus, whose northern part been occupied by Turkish troops since 1974.
Democratic Rally president Averof Neofytou said the results gave Anastasiades a “strong mandate” reflecting the desire of Cypriots to keep the country on the same course. For his party, Andros Kyprianou, secretary-general of communist AKEL, said that Malas’s vote count was a reflection of the people’s desire for a “change of course.”
Centrist Nikolas Papadopoulos, son of the late former president Tassos Papadopoulos, came third with 25.75 percent.
The leader of the far-right ELAM party, Christos Christou, was fourth with 5.65 percent of the vote – signifying an increase in the popularity of his party, which first appeared in the island’s political life in 2016 when it won two seats in Parliament.
Both Anastasiades and Malas are expected to embark on an offensive to win the support of voters that backed losing candidates, who have accused both men of pursuing a softer stance on the Cyprus issue. Both campaigned on the promise to return to negotiations with Turkish-Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci after reunification talks collapsed in acrimony in July.