Cliff on the ocean in Cyprus

Cyprus Politics February 2023

Cyprus: Cyprus heads to presidential elections amid a fragmented Parliament

— After the first round in early February, the election is expected to go to a second round.

— Nikos Christodoulides is the front-runner.

— Economic policy stability can be expected regardless of the outcome.

What is happening: On 5 February, the country will head to the polls to elect a new president. If no candidate obtains a majority vote, a runoff between the two leading candidates will occur on 12 February. An all-time high of 14 candidates will contest the election. According to polls, only three candidates could win: Nikos Christodoulides, Averof Neophytou and Andreas Mavroyiannis.

The candidates’ policies: Former affairs minister Nikos Christodoulides is leading in the polls. He is an independent candidate backed by the centrist Democratic Party (DIKO) and center-left Movement for Social Democracy (EDEK) parties. Christodoulides focuses on modernizing state structures, supporting low-income groups and deepening the green transition. Concerning the so-called Cyprus dispute, he advocates for close cooperation with the UN and the EU.

Averof Neophytou, backed by the center-right and currently ruling Democratic Rally (DISY), is the candidate that would provide the greatest political continuity. Neophytou has the strongest pro-business rhetoric among key candidates. In terms of social policy, he leans heavily towards pro-family measures, such as cutting taxes relative to family size. On the Cyprus dispute, he supports NATO accession.

Andreas Mavroyiannis, backed by left-wing parties, would carry out the largest policy break with the current administration. He emphasizes the fight against corruption and social spending and has the strongest focus on environmental policies among the three main candidates. He also supports cooperation with the UN and the EU regarding the Cyprus issue.

The economic impact: The result of the election is set to have a limited impact on the economic policy landscape. This is because Parliament is highly fragmented since the 2021 legislative elections, and any shifts in policy will thus require thorough negotiations between parties.

Fitch Solutions, who expect a Christodoulides victory, explain the difficulties that the victor will face:

“Our core expectation is for Christodoulides to win the election, with limited impact on policy trajectory […]. Cyprus’s new president will have to grapple with heightened tensions in the East Mediterranean, with longstanding disputes over hydrocarbon resources and maritime territory coinciding with worsening relations between Turkiye and Greece.”

Analysts at the EIU also expect a Christodoulides victory and describe political obstacles that the next president will encounter:

“His government will have to govern without a parliamentary majority and will have to negotiate proposed legislation on a case-by-case, as has his predecessor. Political fragmentation will continue to complicate decision-making and the government’s ability to build consensus on the Cyprus issue.”

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