site.btaCypriots Vote for President Sunday
The Republic of Cyprus is undoubtedly one of the countries where the importance of domestic political processes exceeds its weight in terms of territory and population. In this case, attention to the presidential elections on February 5 is being attracted both by the crossing of various geostrategic interests and by the island's role as a financial centre, a popular tourist destination and a potential energy hub.
The presidential elections in Cyprus, on the other hand, also carry particular weight because the country is the only fully presidential republic in the European Union. Under the constitution, the powers of the President are broad, and for certain historical reasons they have become even broader than they were originally intended to be.
After independence from Britain in 1960, a constitution was adopted which divided the government between the Greek and Turkish communities. More specifically, the executive power was divided between a president elected by Greek Cypriots and a vice-president elected by Turkish Cypriots. The two appoint the ministers in the government: seven are appointed by the president, three by the vice-president.
While this arrangement on paper is still in place today, as early as 1964, after inter-ethnic clashes and ten years before the Turkish invasion in 1974, the vice-president and the ministers from the Turkish community withdrew from the authorities. This left the President, out of necessity, to appoint the entire government, a situation that continues to this day, the only difference being that the number of ministers has increased to eleven.
The President of Cyprus, in addition to appointing the ministers, also acts as head of government, convenes its meetings, sets their agenda and has the power to veto decisions of the Council of Ministers if they affect foreign policy, security and defence.
In addition, the Constitution gives the President of Cyprus the power to appoint independent civil servants and Supreme Court judges.
Another important power of the President is to veto laws passed by Parliament when they concern matters of foreign, security and defence policy and to refer them back for review.
Running for president in Cyprus is relatively easy. It requires the candidate to be 35 years of age or older, not to have been convicted of a deliberate crime and to present the signatures of 101 citizens, one of whom must be his own. However, in order to avoid uncontrolled situations, the candidate pays a deposit of EUR 2,000, which is returned after the elections only to those who have received more than 3% of the valid votes.
A total of 14 nominations were submitted for the current elections by the deadline set at the beginning of January, which is a record-setting number for a presidential election in Cyprus. According to the opinion polls, three candidates have a realistic chance of winning. As the polls show, the greatest support goes to former Foreign Minister Nikos Christodoulides, who is standing as an independent candidate backed by a wide range of political forces such as the centrist Democratic Party (DIKO) and Democratic Front (DEPA) and the centre-left Movement for Social Democracy (EDEK), but also by parties such as the conservative eurosceptic Solidarity Movement. Christodoulides also receives significant, albeit unofficial, support from supporters of the ruling Democratic Rally (DISY) party, to which he belonged but was expelled after formally submitting his candidacy. Following Christodoulides with relatively equal clout are the official candidate of the Democratic Rally and its leader Averof Neophytou and the independent candidate Andreas Mavroyiannis supported by the left-wing Progressive Party of Working People (AKEL).
There is nothing very special about the presidential election itself. The President of Cyprus is elected by a general, direct and secret ballot of all adult Cypriot citizens normally resident in the territory of the country. The candidate receiving more than half of the valid votes is considered elected. In the event that no candidate obtains an absolute majority of votes, a second round of voting is held one week later, in which the voters have to choose between the two candidates who win the highest number of votes in the first round.
A second round has been held in all presidential elections in Cyprus since 1988, except in 2003, when Tassos Papadopoulos was elected in the first round.
There is, however, one curious aspect in way the President is elected in Cyprus: if only one candidate is put forward, or if, due to others dropping out for various reasons, only one remains, then no election is held and the sole candidate is automatically declared President. And while this possibility sounds purely theoretical, it has actually happened three times: in 1973, 1977 and 1978.
A total of 561,033 Cypriots are registered on the electoral rolls for the presidential elections. Of these, only 730 are Turkish Cypriots, because the majority of them live and vote in the unrecognized Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.
Voters cast their ballots in 1,148 polling stations in the six electoral zones, which coincide with the five districts that are wholly or partly under the control of the Government, plus one electoral zone that includes the overseas polling stations. It should be noted that these zones are entirely organizational in nature and, for the presidential elections, the whole country is considered one constituency.
Polling stations open at 7am on election day and close at 6pm with a one-hour break at noon from 12-1pm.
The voting itself is done with a single paper ballot paper on which the names of the candidates are written along with their photographs.
Cypriot citizens temporarily residing abroad may exercise their right where there is a Cypriot embassy or consulate. In order to open a polling station in a diplomatic mission, at least 50 Cypriots must have declared their wish to vote there. In Bulgaria, a voting section opened in the Embassy of the Republic of Cyprus in Sofia. The embassy told BTA that 181 Cypriot citizens have registered to vote there. The polling station in Sofia opened at the same hours as the polling stations on the territory of Cyprus: from 7am to 12pm and from 1pm to 6pm.
It is for sure that the name of the new President of the Republic of Cyprus will not be officially known this Sunday, because all polls indicate that there will be a second round on February 12.
The announcement of the winner of the elections is made at a ceremony on the evening of election day by the Inspector-General of Elections. The newly elected President will take office on 28 February at a special sitting of the Cypriot Parliament.