By Robert Johnson
On February 4th, 2018, Nicos Anastasiades was elected President to a Cyprus riddled with economic trouble, international conflict, and an ever-increasing divide within politics. Winning with just 56% of the electoral vote, Anastasiades must now run the country through the growing issues facing the small country off the coast of Turkey. Cyprus sits at a crossroad, with questions developing about the road to take with competing nations, conflicting political parties, and an economic crisis that has plagued the nation for a decade; the fate of the nation now lies on the ability for the incumbent president to keep his promise—to take “steady steps ahead” with the future of the nation.
The ethnically Greek Cyprus originated in modern history as a colony within the British empire, first established in 1878. The nation would remain in the dominion of the British until 1960, when they forced the imperial power to negotiate with them for independence. However, the native Cypriots developed resentment toward one another quickly after gaining their freedom; an ethnic divide between the large Greek majority and a Turkish minority living on the island would grow rapidly after they achieved sovereignty. The two groups came to a head in 1964, leaving 500 dead [UNFI] in hostilities across the nation before the British could step in and set up a United Nations peacekeeping force, which formed the line dividing the land into two distinct ethnic boundaries that remain in the country to this day.
A lasting ethnic dispute is not the only problem Cyprus faces today. The U.S. subprime mortgage disaster of 2008 rippled across the globe, extrapolating to countries within the EU; Cyprus, one of the many casualties, fell into an economic crisis, reaching a 16.8% unemployment rate in 2013.
Nico Anastasiades was first elected into office in 2013. A member of the right wing Democratic Rally party, he was at the forefront of the economic collapse of Cyprus and has seen each failure in negotiations between the conflicting ethnic sides of the country. While he’s been able to assist in the rebuilding of the economy of Cyprus, with unemployment falling 5% in the past five years, it was at the expense of his citizens as he issued a bank payout similar to Greece at the expense of the taxpayers and account holders.
With the issues riddling the country and unpopular actions from the incumbent president, it is unsurprising that the recent election has been divisive. The first stage of the two party election system ended without any of the nine different candidates getting close to a majority of the votes; the top two candidates, Nicos Anastasiades and Stavros Malas, both generally resented by the public, were left to move onto the second stage of voting.
The final runoff of the election shaped up to remain the most divided Cypriot election in recent history. Losing parties refused to support either of the two competing candidates. Many Cypriots even rejected voting outright, with 75% of first time voters not even registering to cast their ballots, mainly due to indifference and a lack of trust in the so far ineffective government.
Nicos Anastasiades won the nomination for President of Cyprus, but one has to ask what impact the enduring president will have. Was a shift in the status quo necessary to bring change to an unevolving political system? Will the country be able to overcome the numerous challenges building up on its doorstep with the Democratic Rally president at its head? Cypriot citizens and the outside world can only wait to see what changes Anastasiades will bring, taking “Steady steps Ahead” with Cyprus.