Glafcοs Clerides, opposed by George Iacovou, who was supported by AKEL, was elected President of the Republic of Cyprus for a second consecutive term, on 15 February 1998. The election, which, for many reasons, can be described as paradoxical, was ultimately decided by a slight vote difference – only 6,000 votes, despite predictions for a Clerides’ comfortable win.

The first presidential term of Glafcos Clerides presented some paradoxical phenomena linked with the participation of Spyros Kyprianou’s Democratic Party – DIKO in a coalition government. It featured a sustained tension in the relations between Clerides and DIKO, and its president throughout almost the whole term of five years, with disagreements and protests on a variety of issues. They were primarily related with internal governance, in particular the share of spoils of power, and to a lesser extent with the Cyprus Problem, in which DISY and DIKO had always had divergent positions. Early in 1997, tensions in their relations and public controversy were growing, with Spyros Kyprianou threatening to leave the government. He was arguing, among other things, that when he decided to support Glafkos Clerides in 1993, the latter had promised to support his candidacy for the 1998 presidential race. Despite threats and tensions, DIKO ministers remained in the cabinet until November 1977, less than three months before the February 1998 presidential election.

AKEL, EDEK and the United Democrats – EDI agreed in July 1997 to nominate as their candidate Marios Eliades, a member of EDEK – former Minister of Communications in the Kyprianou government (March 1978 – September 1980). Eventually, Eliades’ candidacy was blocked by disputes and objections, especially by EDI. AKEL then decided to nominate George Iacovou, former Foreign Minister in both the Kyprianou and the George Vassiliou governments. A decisive factor in boosting Iakovou’s candidacy was the withdrawal of Spyros Kyprianou candidacy, who announced support to Iakovou on Christmas Eve, 1997. AKEL and DIKO had totaled 49.4% of the vote in the May 1996 elections.

For the first time, seven candidates contested the election, a record figure for presidential elections. In addition to Glafkos Clerides and Giorgos Iakovou, George Vassiliou, former President of the Republic, Vassos Lyssarides, president of EDEK, Alexis Galanos, who distanced himself from his party DIKO and was expelled, Nicos Rolandis, and the President of New Horizons, Nicos Koutsou.

In the first round, Glafcos Clerides gained significant ground, securing 40.1% of the vote, about six points more than the share of Democratic Rally, who supported him, and only half a point behind George Iakovou’s 40.6%. The support to Glafcos Clerides by four candidates that run in the first round and the decision by Vassos Lyssarides’ party EDEK not to support any candidate created the conditions for a momentum and enlargement of the support that Clerides seemed to have.

There were more advantages for Clerides. His rise to the presidency and the exercise of power had contributed to eliminating some of the doubts and reservations some voters had towards him, affecting their vote for years. His hold on the power was creating an irreversible advantage, while positions and actions, most notably the opening up of the road for Cyprus to join the European Union and the promotion of a United Defense Doctrine with Greece, were generally well received by the electorate.

In a series of opinion polls, Glafcos Clerides ratings on value and appreciation in abilities and characteristics were higher at a rate of two to one and three to one when compared to George Iakovou.

Clerides’ election campaign highlighted the above as achievements, the European course of Cyprus and prospects for mobilizing the big powers with the aim to resolve the Cyprus Problem. Along with the above, Russia was expected to deliver S-300 missiles purchased by Cyprus.
AKEL and the team of George Iakovou portrayed Clerides’ governance as extremely destructive to the country, with prominent figures in the President milieu exercising power behind the scenes, while the President was “absent”. Glafkos Clerides himself was presented by his opponents, among others, as unreliable, systematically failing his promises, seeking to “invade” DIKO, and having close links with those that staged the 1974 coup d’état against Makarios.
In the end, the strong polarizing campaign worked to some extent in favour of George Iakovou, who lost to Glafkos Clerides, by almost 6000 votes.