Demetris Christofias

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Demetris Christofias
Δημήτρης Χριστόφιας
Demetris Christofias in February 2011.jpg
6th President of Cyprus
In office
28 February 2008 – 28 February 2013
Preceded byTassos Papadopoulos
Succeeded byNicos Anastasiades
9th President of the House of Representatives
In office
7 June 2001 – 28 February 2008
Preceded bySpyros Kyprianou
Succeeded byMarios Garoyian
4th General Secretary of the
Progressive Party of Working People
In office
22 April 1988 – 21 February 2009
Preceded byEzekias Papaioannou
Succeeded byAndros Kyprianou
Personal details
Born(1946-08-29)29 August 1946
Kato Dikomo, British Cyprus
Died21 June 2019(2019-06-21) (aged 72)
Nicosia, Cyprus
Political partyProgressive Party of Working People
Spouse(s)Elsie Chiratou (1972–2019, his death)
EducationRussian Academy of Sciences

Demetris Christofias, also spelled Dimitris Christofias (Greek: Δημήτρης Χριστόφιας [ðiˈmitɾis xɾiˈstofças]; 29 August 1946 – 21 June 2019), was a Greek Cypriot politician who served as the sixth president of Cyprus from 2008 to 2013. Christofias was the General Secretary of AKEL (Progressive Party of Working People) and was the European Union's and Cyprus' first — and so far only — communist head of state. He won the 2008 Cypriot presidential elections in the second round of voting. Throughout the election campaign, he pledged to restart talks with Turkish Cypriots in order to find a solution to the Cyprus dispute and reunify the island. He also supported the closure of the British military bases on Cyprus.[1]


Demetris Christofias was born in Dikomo in the Kyrenia District of Cyprus, in the area that has been under Turkish military occupation.[2] He received his secondary-school education at Nicosia Commercial Lyceum, from which he graduated in 1964. At the age of 14, he joined the progressive secondary-school students organisation, PEOM, and at the age of 18, he joined EDON (AKEL's United Democratic Youth Organisation), PEO Trade Unions, and AKEL. In 1969, at the 5th Congress of EDON, he was elected member of the Central Council.

Christofias spent five years in Moscow in the Soviet Union where he studied at the Institute of Social Sciences, Academy of Social Sciences, from which he received a degree in history. In addition to his native Greek, he spoke Russian and English. In Moscow he met his wife and later returned to Cyprus and political life. Christofias married Elsi Chiratou in 1972 and they had three children: two daughters, Marianna and Christina; and a son, Christos.[3] He was allegedly an atheist, a public pronouncement unprecedented by a political leader in overwhelmingly Orthodox Cyprus.[4][5]


Public figure[edit]

Cyprus President Dimitris Christofias and Cyprus first lady Elsie Chiratou with U.S. President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama (2009)

In 1974 Christofias was elected to the post of the Central Organising Secretary of EDON and in 1977 to the post of General Secretary. He served in the latter post until 1987. In 1976 he was elected as a member of the Nicosia-Kyrenia District Committee of AKEL, and in 1982 – at the 15th Congress of AKEL – he was elected as a member of the Central Committee of the Party.

In July 1986 Christofias was elected as an alternate member of the Political Bureau of AKEL. After the 16th Congress of AKEL, held in November 1986, he was elected as a full member of the Political Bureau, and in 1987 (after terminating his service as General Secretary of EDON) he was elected as a member of the AKEL Secretariat. In April 1988, following the death of Ezekias Papaioannou, he was elected as General Secretary of AKEL, a post he held until 2009[citation needed] .

Rise to local leadership[edit]

Christofias was elected as a Member of the House of Representatives for the first time in 1991 and was re-elected in the subsequent parliamentary elections of 1996 and 2001. On 7 June 2001, he was elected as President of the House of Representatives. He was re-elected as President of the House of Representatives in 2006. In his function as General Secretary of AKEL and President of the House of Representatives, he was a Member of the National Council, a supreme advisory body to the President of the Republic.

Christofias was ex-officio chairman of the House Standing Committee on Selection and chairman of the ad hoc House Standing Committee on Rules of Procedure and of the Special House Standing Committee on Declaration and Examination of Property. He was also president of the executive committees of the Cyprus group to the Inter-Parliamentary Union and of the Cyprus branch of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association.

2008 presidential election[edit]

Rabbi Arie Zeev Raskin with President Demetris Christofias (2008)

The first round of the February 2008 presidential election, held on 17 February, saw a close result between the three leading candidates—Christofias, Ioannis Kasoulides of DISY, and the incumbent Tassos Papadopoulos—Christofias narrowly placing second with 33.3% of the vote, behind Kasoulidis with 33.5%. Christofias and Kasoulidis participated in a second round on 24 February[6] for which Christofias received the backing of Papadopoulos's party, DIKO.[7] Christofias went on to win the election with 53.37% of the vote.[8] After his success he pledged to restart talks to find a solution to reunify the island. In addressing a jubilant crowd in the Cyprus capital Nicosia's streets the new president-elect said he looked forward to "substantial cooperation for the benefit of both communities".[9] "Tomorrow, a new day begins. We will see many difficulties ahead of us. As of tomorrow, we unite our achieve the reunification of our country".[10]

Christofias was sworn in as president at a ceremony in the House of Representatives on 28 February 2008, vowing that "the solution of the Cyprus problem will be the top priority of my government".[11] Although proud to be a communist, he said he would leave the free market economy alone.[12] While much of the focus beyond Cyprus was on Christofias's communist background and education in Moscow, on the island voters were more concerned with a solution to Europe's longest running conflict—the island's partition since 1974.[13]


Foreign Minister of Greece Dimitrios Droutsas and Dimitris Christofias in Cyprus Presidential Palace in February 2011

Christofias proceeded to appoint his government on 29 February 2008. Christofias' first government was a coalition between his own party AKEL, Marios Garoyian's Democratic Party and Yiannakis Omirou's Movement for Social Democracy. Christofias started talks with Mehmet Ali Talat on the reunification of Cyprus as a bizonal federal state,[14] but his hopes for Greek Cypriot approval of such a plan were soon scotched by the nationalists' victory in Northern Cyprus' 2009 parliamentary elections.[14]

On 28 July 2011, Cyprus's cabinet tendered its resignation bowing to political and public pressure after a massive munitions blast at Evangelos Florakis Naval Base on 11 July 2011. Several thousand people upset by the Cypriot government's failure to dispose of the explosives had held a demonstration in the capital Nicosia on 12 July, demanding the resignation of Christofias.[15][16][17]

On 3 October 2011, the results of the investigation regarding the Evangelos Florakis Naval Base explosion were released to the public, placing the blame for the incident mainly on President Christofias, holding him “personally and institutionally responsible” for the blast.[18][19] Christofias rejected the results of the investigation and denied any personal responsibility for the tragedy.[20]

Six days later, the police report, "prepared by head of CID at police HQ", recommended the prosecution of 12 people; the police rejected claims they were trying to protect the Presidential palace officials with their report, instead asserting that the "police perform their duties “impartially and objectively”". The police also report that they "carefully avoided saying who and how many we propose to take to court, because the final word on who will be brought to justice rests with the no way did we want to stigmatise someone who the AG may later judge there is insufficient evidence to prosecute”.[21]

During this tenure as president, Christofias vowed to resume negotiations for the reunification of the island, making it one of the top priorities of his administration. Although his efforts did not lead to reunification, progress was made as ambulances and workers were able to cross the border, trade developed, and confidence-building measures were set in place.

He increased the minimum wage and pensions at the beginning of his term, but his social policy was stopped when the Cypriot banking system collapsed as a result of the 2012–2013 Cypriot financial crisis. The European Union then only agreed to grant an aid package in exchange for a policy of economic austerity, which was never signed by Dimitris Christofias. He tried to limit the crisis by obtaining a 2.5 billion euro loan from Russia, while opposing the privatization scheme. The president also found himself confronted with the parliament, where his party has only one third of the seats, which refused his proposal to increase taxes on banks, responsible for the crisis.[22][23]'[24]

Christofias announced on 14 May 2012 he would not seek re-election for a second term in the next year, citing a deadlock in talks on the island's reunification.[25] He left office on 28 February 2013, following the presidential elections he did not take part in. Mr. Christofias was the only Cypriot president not to seek reelection.[26]

Health and death[edit]

Christofias was hospitalized on 20 May 2019 in critical condition, after he experienced acute respiratory problems.[27] He died on 21 June, with no cause of death being immediately announced.[28][29]


  1. ^ Helena Smith (25 February 2008). "Cyprus elects its first communist president". The Guardian. Retrieved 10 September 2020.
  2. ^ "Christofias Demetris. Curriculum Vitae". President of Cyprus. Archived from the original on 5 April 2013. Retrieved 10 September 2020.
  3. ^ Michele Kambas (24 February 2008). "FACTBOX — Five facts about Cyprus leftist Christofias". Reuters. Retrieved 10 September 2020.
  4. ^ Elias Hazou (17 September 2006). "Church elections: how it works". Cyprus Mail. Archived from the original on 6 June 2008. Retrieved 10 September 2020. For instance, Chrysostomos might argue that certain self-declared atheists should not be allowed to vote. It's worth recalling that a couple of years ago, the leader of the communist party AKEL Demetris Christofias said he was an atheist.
  5. ^ "Greek Cypriots elect new president". 24 February 2008. Retrieved 10 September 2020. Most of the campaign has focused on Christofias's credentials. His detractors have portrayed him as a die-hard communist who spurns his ethnic roots and has an allegedly atheist background
  6. ^ "Incumbent eliminated from Cyprus presidential election in major surprise" Archived 15 December 2008 at the Wayback Machine, Associated Press (International Herald Tribune), 17 February 2008.
  7. ^ "Communist chief gains edge in Cyprus poll". Archived from the original on 16 January 2009. Retrieved 20 February 2008., AFP (, 21 February 2008.
  8. ^ "Presidential Election 2008: Run-off Election: Official results". Cypriot government. 24 February 2008. Archived from the original on 2 November 2007. Retrieved 24 February 2008.
  9. ^ "Christofias wins Cyprus presidency". CNN. 24 February 2008. Archived from the original on 29 February 2008. Retrieved 25 February 2008.
  10. ^ USA Today "Christofias wins Cyprus presidential election" 25 February 2008. (24 February 2008). Retrieved on 2011-12-17.
  11. ^ "New Cyprus president takes office with pledge for solution" Archived 3 March 2008 at the Wayback Machine, Xinhua, 28 February 2008.
  12. ^ Kambas, Michele. (24 February 2008) "Communist Christofias wins Cyprus presidential vote", Reuters. Retrieved on 2011-12-17.
  13. ^ Birch, Nicholas, "Leftist victory revives hopes for a united Cyprus", The Independent, 25 February 2008. Retrieved on 17 December 2011.
  14. ^ a b "Cyprus country profile". BBC News. 27 May 2011. Archived from the original on 28 July 2011.
  15. ^ "Cypriots Riot After Deadly Munitions Blast". Voice of America. United States Government. 12 July 2011. Retrieved 13 July 2011.
  16. ^ Spencer, Richard (12 July 2011). "Anger grows in Cyprus over 'criminal errors' behind explosion". The Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved 12 July 2011.
  17. ^ Morley, Nathan (13 July 2011). "Anger Grows in Cyprus Over Munitions Blast". Voice of America. United States Government. Retrieved 13 July 2011.
  18. ^ Kambas, Michele (3 October 2011). "Independent probe blames Cyprus leader for blast". Reuters.
  19. ^ Mari probe: President is blamed for blast Archived 4 October 2011 at the Wayback Machine. Cyprus Mail (4 October 2011). Retrieved on 2011-12-17.
  20. ^ "Cyprus president denies blame for munitions blast". Reuters. 3 October 2011.
  21. ^ Outcry as ‘leaked report’ puts some blast responsibility on the dead Archived 12 November 2011 at the Wayback Machine. Cyprus Mail (9 October 2011). Retrieved on 2011-12-17.
  22. ^ President Demetris Christofias has brought Cyprus to this sorry state. The Guardian (2012-19-12). Retrieved on 2013-18-03.
  23. ^ Conservative Is Elected President in Cyprus The New York Times, 24 February 2013.
  24. ^ After Negotiations, Cyprus Agrees to a Euro Zone Bailout PackageThe New York Times, 15 March 2013.
  25. ^ Cyprus leader won't run for 2nd term
  26. ^ Hadjicostis, Menelaos (21 June 2019). "Demetris Christofias, embattled former president of Cyprus, dies at 72". The Washington Post.
  27. ^ Former President Christofias in ‘critical’ condition (Updated),, 2019/05/31
  28. ^ Psyllides, George (21 June 2019). "Former president Demetris Christofias has died". Cyprus Mail. Retrieved 21 June 2019.
  29. ^ Hadjicostis, Menelaos (21 June 2019). "Demetris Christofias, embattled former president of Cyprus, dies at 72". The Washington Post. Retrieved 21 June 2019.

External links[edit]

Party political offices
Preceded by General Secretary of the
Progressive Party of Working People

Succeeded by
Political offices
Preceded by President of the House of Representatives
Succeeded by
Preceded by President of Cyprus
Succeeded by