Who is Nikos Christodoulides, who has just been elected president in Cyprus?

Cypriots went to the polls on Sunday to elect their new president. With 52% of the votes (against 48% of the votes for his rival Andreas Mavroyiannis), it was the former head of Cypriot diplomacy Nikos Christodoulides who was finally elected. He had previously worked for years in the conservative government of the outgoing head of state before standing out and presenting himself as “independent”.

Aged 49, this man supported by center parties is the youngest head of state ever elected to head this divided island in the eastern Mediterranean, a member of the European Union. Presenting himself as “independent”, Nikos Christodoulides was favored by the polls already before the first round, even if he offered voters a program close to the line of Disy, the conservative party of outgoing president, Nicos Anastasiades and big loser of the ballot.

A triple problem

“The three main issues that concern voters are the cost of living and housing, immigration and the Cyprus problem”, the division of the Mediterranean island, believes this diplomat who was also a professor at the University of Cyprus.

For good reason, since 2017, peace talks have stalled in Cyprus, divided since the invasion by Turkey in 1974 of the northern third of the island, in response to a coup d’etat by Cypriot-Greek nationalists who wanted unite the country with Greece.

” A traitor “

The announcement of his candidacy for the presidency in May 2022 had caused tensions within Disy, which had chosen another candidate, Averof Neofytou. Nikos Christodoulides ended up being expelled from the party. Eliminated in the first round, Averof Neofytou called Nikos Christodoulides a “traitor”.

Holder of a doctorate in political science from the University of Athens, Nikos Christodoulides has also studied in Malta and New York, in the United States. Having started his diplomatic career in 1999, he rose through the ranks at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to end up serving as minister between 2018 and 2022.

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A rigidity on the reunification of the island

The Republic of Cyprus only exercises authority over the southern part of the island, separated by the Green Line, a UN-controlled demilitarized zone, from the self-proclaimed and recognized Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) only by Ankara.

Throughout the electoral campaign, Nikos Christodoulides proved to be more rigid than his adversaries on the question of the resumption of talks on the reunification of the island. And said he was open to the idea of ​​integrating far-right parties like Elam into his government, which came in fourth place in the first round with 6% of the vote and strongly opposed to any project to reunify the island. .

The battle against “golden passports”

Nikos Christodoulides also advocated “zero tolerance” against corruption after the “golden passports” scandal. This program of granting passports against investments on the island was canceled due to allegations of corruption, tarnishing the image of the outgoing government where he was a minister. Criticized by his European peers for his positions considered to be pro-Russian, he finally gradually hardened his tone with regard to Russia, after its invasion of Ukraine.

Another hot topic for the new head of state: the influx of migrants on the island. Authorities claim that 6% of the 915,000 people living in the south of the island are asylum seekers. Cyprus has the second highest rate of first-time asylum seekers relative to its population in the European Union (EU), behind Austria, according to EU figures. Nikos Christodoulides has promised a faster examination of asylum applications with the objective of 3,000 files per month.

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