Nikos Christodoulides was elected president of the Republic of Cyprus on Sunday, without the support of either of the country’s two main parties.
He does have significant power by virtue of Cyprus’ presidential system, but the peculiarity of having neither the center-right Democratic Rally nor the leftist Progressive Party of Working People (AKEL) on his side presents an unprecedented challenge in the country’s process of governance.
The 49-year-old former diplomat, who served as a government spokesman before taking over as foreign minister, will need to muster all of his diplomatic skills to achieve consensus and compromises in promoting policy and passing legislation.
In terms of foreign policy, and despite the questions raised by some officials, particularly in the European Union, the new president’s orientation is clearly Euro-Atlantic.
At the same time, he cannot overlook the particular situation of his country and the fact that the Cyprus issue is an international problem that is being handled by the United Nations and about which crucial decisions are made by all five members of the Security Council.
That said, Christodoulides has a very strong card in his close ties to the Hellenic diaspora and particularly to the Hellenic-American community, which he is sure to use to his advantage.
He will obviously be judged by the choices he makes and the policies he ultimately adopts.
His personality has been instrumental in the harmonious cooperation with the Greek governments of Antonis Samaras, Alexis Tsipras and Kyriakos Mitsotakis, and this is expected to continue regardless of the result of the upcoming elections in Greece.
His choice to run as an independent may have caused some friction and tension, but it was vindicated at the ballot box.
Beyond the differences between the candidates – which featured intensely at times in the runup to Cyprus’ polls – and the tensions inside the Democratic Rally, from which Christodoulides hails, the multitude of statements about unity that came after he was confirmed winner are encouraging.
After all, his rival in the second round, fellow career diplomat Andreas Mavroyiannis, an extremely polite person who not only did very well himself – better than the polls were predicting – but also showed dignity and political cultivation.
Given the increased need for consensus in the management of the Cyprus issue, everyone needs to put their personal rivalries aside and support the eighth president of the Republic of Cyprus in his efforts.
Christodoulides’ victory signals the next generation’s rise to power. It is not just the new president who is young, but he has also vowed a young government.
With the wound of the Cyprus issue still open, the baton, therefore, passes onto the next generation of Cypriots, and one can only hope they will succeed where the others have failed.