NICOSIA, CYPRUS - Greek Cypriots are gearing up for a presidential runoff Sunday, barely seven months after the latest failure to reunify the eastern Mediterranean island nation of Cyprus.
President Nicos Anastasiades is looking to reprise his triumph over left-leaning Stavros Malas in 2013 when the two men faced each other. Earlier polls had shown Anastasiades beating Malas convincingly in Sunday’s runoff, but Malas’ strong showing in last weekend’s first round of voting might make it a closer race.
Voters are skeptical about whether anyone can lead them out of the labyrinth of the decades-old division with Turkish Cypriots.
Cyprus was divided into a Greek-speaking south and a Turkish-speaking north in 1974 when Turkey invaded following a coup by supporters of union with Greece. Only Turkey recognizes a Turkish Cypriot declaration of independence and keeps more than 35,000 troops in the north.
Anastasiades, 71, who says it will be his last term in office if re-elected, is counting on his track record of turning the economy around after a 2013 financial crisis that saw unemployment soar and salaries slashed. He has also been trumpeting his role in steering peace talks with breakaway Turkish Cypriots further than anyone else since the 1974 split.
By contrast, the 50-year-old Malas is hoping his relative youth will strike a chord with the 550,000 eligible voters, many of whom are disillusioned by the acrimonious breakdown of the latest round of peace talks and years of economic uncertainty that’s shaken the confidence of the middle class.
Anastasiades and Malas secured 35.5 and 35.2 percent of the vote, respectively, in the first round, setting up potentially a tighter than anticipated final vote.