Giorgos Lillikas will announce on Friday that he is to be a candidate in next February’s Cyprus presidential elections. Lillikas was a strong opponent of the 2004 Annan Plan, which he described as a ‘catastrophe’ that would lead to Cyprus becoming Turkey’s protectorate. In Tassos Papadopoulos’ government (2003-2008), Lillikas was, first, minister for commerce and industry before, in 2006, taking over as foreign minister. Lillikas was originally elected to parliament with left-wing AKEL, but broke off relations with the party when he refused to support its candidate for the presidency in 2008, Dimitris Christofias, insisting that Tassos Papadopoulos, to whom Lillikas had become close, was the candidate he regarded as most capable of promoting Cyprus’ fight against the Turkish occupation.
Lillikas will say that he is to stand as an independent, but it is expected that in the next few weeks he will receive the support of the four parties that supported Tassos Papadopoulos in 2008, namely, DIKO, EDEK, EVROKO and the Greens. Of course, in 2008, these four parties were not able to muster enough votes to secure for Papadopoulos a place in the second round of the elections – Papadopoulos finished third behind AKEL’s Dimitris Christofias and DISY’s Yiannakis Cassoulides; but Lillikas stands a very good chance of finishing in the top two next year and qualifying for the second round because of the unpopularity of incumbent Christofias, who is expected to seek re-election.
Nikos Anastasiades from conservative DISY – who supported the Annan Plan – announced his candidacy for the presidential elections last month. He is likely to finish top in the first round of voting, but his best chance of winning is if he faces a run-off with Christofias, not with Lillikas. This is because however much AKEL’s leadership despise Lillikas for doing what communist parties hate the most – which is not towing the party line – they despise Anastasiades and centre-right DISY twice as much, for the usual ideological reasons, and it is inconceivable that AKEL would recommend its supporters back Anastasiades in any run off with Lillikas. However, if Lillikas were not to make the second round, then Anastasiades would probably pick up enough support from anti-Christofias voters from DIKO and EVROKO to secure the presidency. A more likely scenario is that Anastasiades and Lillikas go through to a second round of voting, with Lillikas garnering sufficient support from AKEL to be the victor and new president of Cyprus.