The AKEL-DIKO coalition, which won the re-election of Spyros Kyprianou in 1983, appeared to be problematic, starting with the election day. After the announcement of the results, AKEL Secretary-General Ezekias Papaioannou was confronted with the reluctance of the re-elected President for a joint public appearance to celebrate their victory. In the end, a common public celebration took place, and two persons enjoying AKEL’s favor were appointed ministers. A couple of days before Christmas 1984, the President asked ministers to submit their resignation. This meant the end of the alliance and DIKO remained the sole power holder.

Following the failure of a high-level meeting on the Cyprus Problem convened by the UN Secretary General in New York, in January 1985, the large differences of approach to the Cyprus Problem between AKEL and Spyros Kyprianou were highlighted. From the beginning of 1985 until the 1988 presidential election, tensions in their relations kept increasing. DISY also joined AKEL in a sustained fight against the President.

AKEL’s heavy losses in the 1985 parliamentary elections, which put it in third place just behind DIKO, were to some extent entertained after the first municipal and mayoral elections, in 1986. The high vote-share and the conquest of the majority of municipalities constituted a great success of the party and gave it hope of recovery.

In its 1988 presidential bid, AKEL first turned to George Ioannides, who was a Makarios’ minister and negotiator for the Cyprus Problem. He belonged to the conservative camp of the pro-Makarios center-right. The choice was abandoned when it was reported that he was a free mason. In April 1987, George Vassiliou, a successful businessman in market research, made his appearance in the political scene. He came from a leftist family, with his father serving as a doctor in the communist camp during the Greek civil war. Vassiliou announced his intention to run for presidency and AKEL announced its support, in July 1987. Spyros Kyprianou, Glafkos Clerides and Vassos Lyssarides completed the list of candidates.

Spyros Kyprianou introduced the slogan “[I am] the foundation and guarantee for the future”, along with the achievements of his ten-year rule. Glafcos Clerides focused on the slogan “We say YES to Clerides” as the first step to a fresh start. He also criticized the President’s policies with cartoon posters. Vassos Lyssarides combined his proposal for more demanding positions on the Cyprus Problem with social issues. In his advertisements he presented the cyclamen as a symbol of Pentadactylos Mountains and the liberation of Cyprus. George Vassiliou focused primarily on presenting himself as the man who would bring about change. He claimed that he could unite the people, with the motto “President of all Cypriots”. In the form of a rainbow, he displayed on his posters three colors, a reference to political forces: DISY (Blue), DIKO (orange) and AKEL (red).

Once again the dirty war had a place in the campaign, with George Vassiliou targeted with libelous anonymous leaflets, most probably coming from the DIKO camp.

All candidates presented an extensive program, their proposal to the people covering a wide range of political, economic and social issues, including, of course, their positions on the Cyprus Problem. Vassiliou innovated with specific proposals in which he developed the actions he would take during his first hundred days in office. The relevant publication was also released in English.

For the first time, the public broadcaster RIK, which monopolized the electronic media landscape, followed a special code to cover the candidates’ activities and their presence in its studios. The basic framework was set out in special provisions voted by AKEL and DISY, amending the law of RIK. The two parties imposed changes aiming to put an end to the government’s monopoly on radio waves.

For the first time, the candidates were also present in a televised debate, while in the parliamentary elections of 1985 there were only individual appearances of party leaders in “meeting the press” programs.

Vassos Lyssarides and his party offered their support to George Vassiliou in the second round of the elections, while DIKO and its President opted for complete neutrality. Vassiliou and Clerides met again for a televised duel before the final electoral battle.

The winner and new president was George Vassiliou, with just over 10,000 votes. A feature of the election was the very high percentage of blank/invalid votes. Blank/invalid ballot papers increased from about 8,000 (2.4%) to 18,000 (5.2%) in the second round and determined the outcome.