Cyprus president among nine candidates for January election

Nicosia (AFP) –


Conservative incumbent Nicos Anastasiades was among nine candidates who registered Friday to stand in a Cyprus presidential election likely to be dominated by stalled peace talks and a reviving economy.

Anastasiades, 71, is the frontrunner to win the vote scheduled for January 28, with opinion polls making him favourite to secure a second term, which by law will be his last.

"We are in the final stretch before the presidential election," Anastasiades told reporters after submitting his candidacy.

"I believe that in the next few weeks and until the elections a mild political climate will prevail, because on the day after the elections Cyprus should find us all united for the good of our country," he added.

Anastasiades had been widely expected to stand again, despite his failure to reach a peace deal for the divided island in UN-backed talks that collapsed in July.

His main challengers will be Stavros Malas, an independent backed by the main opposition communist party Akel, and Nicolas Papadopoulos, whose late father Tassos Papadopoulos served as president from 2003 to 2008.

Malas, who was defeated by Anastasiades in the last presidential election in 2013, has criticised the president for failing to reach a compromise to end the island's decades-old division.

Papadopulous, whose father led Greek Cypriots in voting resoundingly against a UN-brokered reunification plan in 2004, has accused the president of offering too many concessions in the talks.

Anastasiades has campaigned on a pro-peace ticket, vowing to try to revive talks with Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci, despite the souring of their relationship through two years of tough and ultimately abortive negotiations.

Cyprus has been divided since 1974 when Turkish troops invaded its northern third in response to an Athens-inspired Greek Cypriot coup seeking union with Greece.

Anastasiades has also played up his success in rescuing the island's economy from the near collapse of its banking system.

After coming into power in March 2013, he had to negotiate a painful bailout agreement with international lenders to avoid bankruptcy but turned the economy around in less than four years.

Cyprus has recovered to post well above average eurozone growth rates with the government expecting 4 percent GDP growth for 2017.

Also in the mix of an all-male line-up of candidates are former foreign minister George Lillikas and the leader of the far-right Elam party Christos Christou.

The president is elected using a two-round system. If, as is almost certain, no candidate gets a majority in the first round, a run-off will be held between the top two candidates on February 4.

Voter apathy may play a part with turnout expected to be low by Cyprus standards. Little more a quarter of the 40,000 new eligible voters have bothered to register.