By Furkan Naci and Murat Topcu
LEFKOSA, Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (AA) - The Greek Cypriot administration in the divided island of Cyprus is going to the polls to elect its new leader on Sunday.
Voting started at 7.00 am local time (0400GMT) and will continue until 6.00 pm local time (1500GMT).
There are nearly 551,000 registered voters in Greek Cypriot administration, 657 of whom are Turkish Cypriots. The Greek Cypriot administration has set up polling places for 11,683 voters living abroad, including in various cities in Greece, as well as Berlin, Vienna, and New York.
Nicholas Papadopoulos of the center-right DIKO party and Stavros Malas, backed by the communist-linked AKEL party, are the main opponents of Nicos Anastasiades, the incumbent candidate of the ruling center-right Democratic Rally Party (DISY).
Recent polls put Anastasiades in the lead with 34.2 percent, followed by Malas and Papadopoulos.
The Greek Cypriot polls come in the wake of Jan. 7 general elections in the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, Greek Cypriots' neighbor on the Eastern Mediterranean island.
If Anastasiades is reelected, peace negotiations with the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus are expected to restart.
If no candidate gets more than 50 percent of the vote this Sunday, a second round next Sunday will determine the winner.
Other candidates include Giorgos Lillikas of the Citizens' Alliance, Christou Christos of the National People's Front (ELAM), Michael Minas of the Party of Justice, and independent candidates Haris Aristidou, Christakis Kapiliotis, and Andreas Evstratiu.
Cyprus has been divided since 1974 when a Greek Cypriot coup was followed by violence against the island's Turks, and Ankara's intervention as a guarantor power.
Cyprus has seen an on-and-off peace process in recent years, including last year' initiative in Switzerland under the auspices of guarantor countries Turkey, Greece and the U.K. collapsing in 2017.
Turkey blames Greek Cypriot intransigence for the talks’ failure, also faulting the European Union for admitting Cyprus as a divided island into the union in 2004 after Greek Cypriot voters rejected a peace deal.