The ruling Democratic Rally (DISY) is struggling to maintain party unity after the dismal first-round results of last Sunday’s presidential election and decided not to back either of the two runners in the second round.
After a ten-year administration headed by outgoing President Nicos Anastasiades, the Cyprus member of the European People’s Party decided to move to the Opposition amid a heated conference late Tuesday.
It conceded to being an Opposition party instead of supporting former foreign minister Nicos Christodoulides or former chief negotiator Andreas Mavroyiannis in Sunday’s face-off.
Both had been close associates of Anastasiades, but the party decided not to back either after DISY failed to go beyond the first round for the first time in its history.
Party leader Averof Neofytou came third after garnering 26% in Sunday’s election behind Christodoulides with 32% and Mavroyiannis with 29.6%.
Christodoulides was expelled from DISY membership for jumping the gun and announcing his candidacy more than six months ago.
DISY found it impossible to back someone who had defied the party while it could not endorse Mavroyiannis, supported by the left.
Christodoulides is supported by an unholy alliance of the centre-right Democratic Party (DIKO), their offshoot Democratic Alignment (DIPA) and the remnants of the socialist party EDEK and senior figures from DISY, especially from Anastasiades’ hometown Limassol.
Extremists Elam are also expected to vote for Christodoulides after their leader Christos Christou came fourth with 6% of the vote.
Mavroyiannis, a career diplomat who chaired the Cyprus EU Presidency in 2012, is supported mainly by the communist AKEL party, making it ideologically difficult for DISY members to vote in his favour.
Both presidential hopefuls visited the DISY headquarters on Monday to bargain a deal, offering membership in a coalition in exchange for the party votes.
Judging from the expressions seen during the televised news coverage from both meetings, the atmosphere seemed cold, especially with Christodoulides, with whom Averof exchanged harsh words throughout the campaign.
As a result, Averof said Tuesday members should vote with their conscience, annoying supporters even further, with some leading officials openly supporting Christodoulides, including Education Minister Prodromos Prodromou, who was booed during the party conference.
News reports suggested that six officials proposed to support Mavroyiannis, especially as DISY and AKEL see eye to eye on resolving the Cyprus problem based on a bizonal, bicommunal federation with the Turkish Cypriots, while two opted for Christodoulides.
On Wednesday, veteran party MP Nicos Tornaritis also openly expressed support for Christodoulides, with more leading DISY figures expected to follow suit.
Speaking on CyBC state radio Wednesday, former Finance Minister and party vice president Harris Georgiades confirmed that Neofytou had called for a party conference on 11 March where he will seek to remain in office as its president.
However, Georgiades said he would decide whether to challenge for the leadership after Sunday’s presidential election runoff.
According to public opinion, DISY, its leader, and outgoing President Anastasiades were punished for the growing number of corruption scandals, the ‘golden passports’ scheme that tarnished the island’s reputation as a business centre, spiralling costs and disproportionate increase in family incomes, and a lack of clarity in trying to resolve the Cyprus problem.