Incumbent faces tight run-off in Greek Cyprus president vote
Final official results put the conservative incumbent on 35.5 percent ahead of Communist AKEL-backed Stavros Malas on 30.25 percent as the divided Mediterranean island eyes a fresh push to reunite.
The two candidates will go head-to-head in a second round of voting on Feb. 4 which looks set to be tight.
Anastasiades -- who is seeking a second and final five-year term in the European Union’s most easterly member -- has pledged to restart talks promptly with Turkish Cyprus after they collapsed last year in acrimony.
Malas, a former health minister who lost out to Anastasiades in 2013, is firmly in favor of a deal to reunite the country and has criticized the president for not going far enough.
“The trend is for a solution,” said political analyst Christophoros Christophorou after the strong results for the candidates keenest on reunification.
“But we cannot forecast that this will mean a final deal will be reached.”
There now looks set to be intense jockeying behind the scenes to secure the support of the losing candidates, above all third place finisher Nikolas Papadopoulos, a former president’s son who takes a tougher line on talks.
“With the margin between Anastasiades and Malas not too large every vote counts,” analyst Christophorou told AFP.
Turnout was well down on five years ago at 71.4 percent as apathy among young voters fed up with an insular system appears on the rise.
Anastasiades said Jan. 218 he was ready to work for a government of wider appeal but warned against voting in an AKEL-backed candidate, since the country nearly went bankrupt under AKEL’s watch.
“I am ready for a government of broad acceptance and cooperation with others,” he said.
“The results of today’s ballot are a strong mandate to continue the course we have been on the last five years.”
“The election showdown next Sunday is critical because the course and the future of our country depends on you,” said Anastasiades.
“And whether we will continue with confidence and stability, or return to dogmatic policies and dead ends, and the uncertainty and insecurity that characterized the previous [AKEL] government.”
Former lawyer Anastasiades -- under the slogan “Steady Steps Forward” -- has taken credit for an impressive recovery by the European Union’s most easterly member since a debilitating financial crisis in 2013.
AKEL leader Andros Kyprianou insisted Malas’ stronger than expected showing proved “we can rid ourselves of the Anastasiades administration.”
“The Cypriot people have voted for change,” he said.