The most notable legacy of the presidency of Nicos Anastasiades was the generalised perception of a widespread corruption involving also the President himself. After ten years in government, Anastasiades left the Cyprus Problem in the longest ever stalemate (almost six years) in a deteriorated climate of distrust between the Turkish Cypriot and the Greek Cypriot communities. Despite legal and other reforms, the administration of justice continued to suffer from years-long delays. The handling of the increasing flow of undocumented migrants with posing bladewires and metallic gates, and applying policies in violation of international treaties remained unsuccessful; most important, the public’s distrust to institutions, caused by non-compliance with the Law, was further boosted by decisions taken by the Attorney General and the Deputy Attorney General. Both were former Anastasiades’ ministers, called to decide on, among other, cases /government decisions in which they had also been involved. The introduction of the General Health System (GESY) as from June 2020, proved successful and, despite problems and challenges, the system managed to survive. Economic problems, caused by the Covid19 crisis, and energy issues caused by the Russian invasion of Ukraine were faced with relative success, thanks also to the assistance of the European Commission. The Russian aggression forced a shift of Cyprus’s foreign policy towards the USA.

This was the situation when preparations for the presidential elections of February 2023 started. Earlier, in the May 2021 parliamentary elections, 15 parties and formations competed for seats in the House of Representatives, with seven being successful. The winners were the neo-Nazi National People’s Front – ELAM, which took the fourth place from EDEK; winners were also DIPA with other DIKO splitters, headed by the former leader of DIKO Marios Karoyan, and various small formations, some of which were one-person’s-group than a real party or were opportunistic groups of sectoral interests. The latter formations gathered together 14% of the vote, but failed to enter the House. Losers were the “big four”, DISY, AKEL, DIKO and EDEK, who suffered important losses for the second consecutive parliamentary election.

The main features of the presidential election were the antagonism for candidacy between the chairman of the Democratic Rally Averof Neofytou and Nicos Christodoulides, Foreign Minister, and the significant number of candidates, some of whom were contesting the election with the potential to garner significant support. There was an early start to the campaign, when Neofytou pressed the party procedure to nominate their candidate (December 2021); one month later Christodoulides quit his ministerial office.

Intentions to run for election were also declared early; among others, Marios Eliades, a minister in the first government of Spyros Kyprianos (1977) and a potential AKEL-EDEK-EDI candidate in 1998, was the first to start promoting his candidacy. Achilleas Demetriades, a lawyer specialised in human rights, announced his program of government in February 2022. A former rector of the University of Cyprus, Konstantinos Christofides, with the support of the European VOLT Movement, also announced his program and candidacy in May 2022. Giorgos Kolokasides, a former member of DIKO, who had distanced himself from the party, announced his candidacy with a stance clearly “against parties”. Christodoulos Protopapas, former Director of the television organisation Logos and director of Hellas-Sat, among the last to announced his candidacy, and Marios Εliades withdrew from the race a couple of weeks before the elections.

Failure of early consultations of AKEL and DIKO for a common candidate led the former to choose and support the candidacy of Andreas Mavroyiannis, a diplomat and negotiator of Anastasiades on the Cyprus Problem. In the meantime, opinion polls were showing that Nicos Christodoulides was clearly ahead in intentions of vote before even having decided to run. Looking to bet for a seemingly winning candidate, DIKO and later EDEK announced their support for Christodoulides, despite him having served in a government they consistently accused for corruption. In October 2022, DIPA and othe splitters from DIKO, joined their former party in support of Christodoulides. The paradox of opposition parties supporting a former minister and the negotiator of the President they were accusing for corruption, seemed not to impress in any ways their leadership.

Nicos Christodoulides was the main target of the campaing effort of the other candidates; with the concurring criticism by media, they attempted to exploit the fact that the announcement of his candidacy was made with a speech copied from the 2008 speech of Yiannakis Kasoulides. Leaks of messages exchanged with a former collaborator of Christodoulides, in which the candidate, in office at the time, was encouraging the creation of fake social media accounts and in personal messages he was denigrating various persons, remained largely unanswered, with Christodoulides projecting his will to “focus on the real problems of the people”.

Specific issues were discussed in greater length: No particular differences existed in the positions of Averof Neophytou and Andreas Mavroyiannis on the Cyprus Problem. Both were in favor of the agreed solution, a Bizonal Bicommunal Federation, declaring that they accepted the so-called Guterres framework, which the Secretary General of the United Nations had presented in Crans Montana, on June 30, 2017. Nicos Christodoulides declared that he accepted the BBF, but not the Guterres framework, as he would like to further negotiate some points of the proposal. Averof Neophytou insisted on the position that it was imperative that Cyprus proceeded with an application for membership to NATO, as a factor for the solution of the Cyprus Problem and the security of Cyprus. Nicos Christodoulides put forward the position that the pursuit of involvement of the European Union in the Cyprus issue could provide a way out of the stalemate of recent years. Andreas Mavroyiannis stressed that energy issues could be a catalyst for solution if they were combined with the “European factor”.

The early mobilization for the presidential elections gave the opportunity to organize from September 2022 numerous debates with the participation of the three candidates that appeared to gather more support, as well as with the other candidates. Along with participating in television debates, the candidates had many other opportunities to present their positions in podcasts and online debates and interviews.

The first round ballot was won by Christodoulides, leading with two and a half points (32.04%), with Andreas Mavroyiannis second (29.59%), three and a half points ahead of Averof Neofytou (26.11%). The president of the far-right ELAM also emerged a big winner, with 6.04%, two points higher than opinion polls had shown. The vote secured by the independent candidates Achilleas Demetriades (2.05%) and Konstantinos Christofides (1.59%) was clearly lower than what opinion polls had recorded. Obviously, a significant part of those who expressed support for them shifted to (mainly) Andreas Mavroyiannis, to give him a chance to advance to the second round.

The failure of Averof Neophytou to make it to the second round caused disappointment among the DISY leadership and anger towards Nicos Christodoulides. The party called on voters to choose obeying their conscience. Nevertheless, party key officials expressed public support for Andreas Mavroyiannis, and some for Nicos Christodoulides. Achilleas Demetriades and Konstantinos Christofides announced their support for Andreas Mavroyiannis.

Nicos Christodoulides won the majority of votes in the second round and was elected President of the Republic, with a clearly smaller percentage than the polls had predicted. He got 51.97% against 48.03% of Andreas Mavroyiannis. The parties of the so-called “in-between” space, after failing to win in 2008, 2013 and 2018, managed to elect a candidate who came from the Democratic Rally. Securing approximately 70% of the votes from DISY voters, Nicos Christodoulides gathered the required majority of votes and won.

It is noteworthy that 30% of DISY voters chose the candidate proposed and supported by AKEL. The support of right wing voters to the candidate of a communist party is indicative of a loosening of the attachment to ideology and polarisation of the electorate.