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Cyprus University rector eyes presidential election

By Annie Charalambous

University of Cyprus rector Constantinos Christofides could run as an independent in February’s presidential election, but not before certain key conditions are met.

“I’m seriously considering it, yes, but I’m not willing to take a leap in the dark, certain conditions have to be met before I announce such a decision,” the occupied Lapithos-born physicist  told the Cyprus Weekly.

“If and when the time comes, I will elaborate (on the conditions),” added Christofides, who also dismissed strong rumours that ruling Disy leader Averof Neophytou is behind his possible candidacy.

The right-wing party, he said, has a candidate and that’s incumbent President Nicos Anastasiades, who is expected to officially announce his re-election bid in October.

Not to mention that the 57-year-old rector’s candidacy would aim to attract the undecided and disillusioned voters who can’t stand the “rotten system” fed by the island’s political parties.

“I’m not negotiating with Disy or any other party…the biggest party today is that of the undecided, disillusioned voters who literally can’t stand the establishment, the rotten system,” Christofides said.

“And I know the system is afraid of a possible candidate like me who is free of party ties, because they have already begun punching below the belt,” he added.

Over the past couple of weeks, rumour has it that Neophytou, who heads the island’s biggest party, and Anastasiades are at loggerheads, with their disagreements taking wider dimensions.

Insiders go as far as to say that Neophytou may propose the candidacy of Christofides as an alternative for the right-wingers.

“Averof seems to be sending a message to the President, he is reminding him that ‘I’m still here, I’m still in control of my party’ and that he can ruin his re-election chances,” one insider said.

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The state of play now is that centre Diko leader Nicolas Papadopoulos and former minister George Lillikas of the Citizens Alliance are the official runners, along with Stavros Malas – the recently-announced candidate of opposition Akel.

The former health minister and geneticist had run on the left-wing party’s ticket in 2013 and lost to President Anastasiades.

Pundits say it will be tough but not impossible for him to make it to the second round, considering Akel is the second-biggest party, with Anastasiades – most probably – as his rival again.

Hardliner Papadopoulos enjoys the support of socialist Edek and MEP Eleni Theocharou’s Solidarity Movement, while Lillikas is not backed by any parliamentary party yet.

Lillikas, who ran in 2013 and came third with a respectable 24% of the vote, would only get 7% this time around, according to insiders citing unreleased polls carried out by both Akel and Disy.

Nonetheless, Christofides argued that Lillikas’ electoral strength this time around will not be more than 4%.

And that if polls to be carried out after the summer holidays give his own candidacy anything around 10%, then his indicated chances to win the election would be high.

“Running as an independent and winning is not unrealistic, it is not a doomed mission…but I have nothing to lose taking a decision not to run either, because the alternative is equally good.

“Come January 2019, I will be on a sabbatical for two years in San Francisco, at Berkley University,” said Christofides whose second term as rector ends in December 2018.

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