Friday is the final day of campaigning in Cyprus before Sunday’s presidential elections which is unlikely to produce a clear winner, setting the stage for a runoff on February 12.
A record 14 candidates have joined the race for the top job but it comes down to three hopefuls who were close aides of incumbent right-wing President Nicos Anastasiades. And, as expected, they are now bitter rivals.
Anastasiades has reached the statutory limit of two consecutive terms and cannot seek re-election.
Opinion polls show Nikos Christodoulides, 49, a former foreign minister as well as government spokesman in the administration, firmly in the lead to succeed Anastasiades.
He had quit to mount a presidency bid against the leader of his own political faction, Averof Neophytou, head of the governing right-wing Democratic Rally party (DISY).
Diplomat and the divided island’s ex chief negotiator in reunification talks with Turkish Cypriots Andreas Mavroyiannis is the third candidate who is backed by main opposition left-wing AKEL.
Cyprus has some 561,000 registered voters and all leading candidates in the election have pledged to push for a resumption of peace talks which collapsed in 2017.
The EU-member Mediterranean island is divided since a 1974 invasion by Turkey which still maintains troops in the breakaway northern part.
Christodoulides is supported by roughly a third of DISY voters and has backing from centrist parties which are hardliners in reunification talks.