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‘I will be Nicos not president’
THOUSANDS of jubilant supporters yesterday celebrated the victory of DISY chief Nicos Anastasiades in the presidential elections’ run-off against AKEL-backed Stavros Malas.
Supporters of the 66-year-old leader gathered before the official results were announced outside both DISY and the campaign headquarters.
“After five years of an AKEL government we needed a change, and it should have come last week,” Andreas, a 30-year-old car mechanic said outside Anastasiades’ campaign headquarters.
A 16-year-old who was there to celebrate although he was too young to vote said that Anastasiades was “the best”.
At DISY offices, supporters gathered with vuvuzelas, waving many Greek flags and a few Cypriot flags, this time confident in Anastasiades’ victory before all votes were counted.
Last Sunday, supporters were caught out as, encouraged by unreliable exit polls, they were tempted to celebrate prematurely.
But this time round, one sentiment prevailed: justified jubilation.
Families showed up to celebrate, children were given flags to wave and a few parents were snapping happy photos or having their little ones pose – all smiles - for the camera.
When Anastasiades showed up, crowds moved in to take a look or shake a hand. A metre away or so, all that could be seen of the president-elect was his hand held up high, waving.
“I ran to shake his hand but he was too fast for me, he escaped upstairs,” an excited supporter said.
A 39-year-old accountant, who had also showed up last Sunday to mark her support, said she expected Anastasiades to win. She voted for Anastasiades “because he is the only one who under the present circumstances convinces (of his ability),” she said.
Another man was almost incredulous when asked why he had voted for Anastasiades.
“Why? Because we trust him. He is the most capable in getting Cyprus out of these dead ends,” said Charilaos Papanicolaou, a 64-year-old retired civil servant. “He can take on the Cyprus problem and the economy,” he said.
When DISY number two, Averof Neophytou, gave statements later in the evening and congratulated Anastasiades for his victory, he had to shout over people who broke out in applause. “Our happiness today is great,” Neophytou said but urged people to display modesty in their celebrations. “The naked truth is that things are hard for our country,” Neophytou said.
There were more celebrations at DIKO headquarters where DIKO head Marios Garoyian congratulated DIKO’s supporters for a victory that was to a large extent theirs, he said referring to DIKO’s support of Anastasiades’ candidacy.
Anastasiades later showed up at DIKO headquarters, kissing and hugging Garoyian, both of them struggling to get through masses of supporters to reach the podium.
Statements were made by both Garoyian and Anastasiades, who told people that he will be “Nicos” to the people, not “the President,” The DISY chief – already running behind schedule – then rushed to get back to his campaign offices. There, his car moved at a snail’s pace because of the crowd. Eventually, Anastasiades grabbed a megaphone and hanging out of his car thanked DISY and DIKO supporters. At 9.50pm, 50 minutes behind schedule, Anastasiades addressed foreign and local media at the Hilton Park hotel. His statement was sent ahead to the media in Turkish, English and Greek.
“Today the people of Cyprus granted us the mandate to govern the country for the next five years. I accept this popular mandate and undertake the responsibility it entails,” Anastasiades said at the Hilton Park. Meanwhile, thousands were waiting at the Eleftheria stadium where Anastasiades was to be officially pronounced the victor. People started showing up at about 6pm, to secure space on a first come first served basis. Police said they would admit up to 7,000 of the public.
“I thank all those who honoured me with their vote, but assure all who chose differently that my respect in their choice is absolute,” the president-elect told the crowds.
An indication of his legendary temper surfaced however, when supporters jeered after Anastasiades expressed his appreciation of opponent Stavros Malas. "Show respect," he scolded them.
He chided them again when some booed at his mention of "our Turkish Cypriot compatriots" to whom he sent messages of friendship and peace.
"Please," he said sternly. "I will not accept irresponsible behaviour leading this country to permanent partition."