Eleni Mavrou, Nicosia's first female mayor

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Eleni Mavrou:
Nicosia’s first female mayor,
a product of Cyprus’ division

By Andrew Stevens

20 July 2007: The first female mayor of the Cypriot capital Nicosia, Eleni Mavrou’s own life reflects the lasting politics of division on the island beset by tensions between the competing claims between its Greek and Turkish populations.  Elected as mayor in 2006 following stints as a councillor and national legislator, Mavrou brings considerable international experience to her role as Nicosia’s first citizen. The mayor was short-listed for the 2008 World Mayor Prize.

Update December 2011: Eline Mavrou fails in her bid for a second term. Nicosia's new mayor is Constantinos Yiorkadjis, an independent supported by a number of centre-right and right-wing parties.

Eleni Mavrou was born in 1961, in the town of Kyrenia in what is now Turkish Northern Cyprus. Following the Turkish-led invasion of 1974, Mavrou’s family moved and resettled in the Cypriot capital Nicosia.  The Turkish-led invasion, instigated following rumours of a military coup planned against the newly-independent Cypriot government directed by the Greek military regime in Athens, had the effect of partitioning the island into the Turkish north and Greek south, which remains in place to this day, in spite of UN-led attempts at reconciliation and power-sharing.

The Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus is still only recognised by Turkey and has faced international condemnation for its refusal to allow Greek Cypriots to return to their properties. Both the UN and Cyprus’ former colonial occupier Britain retain a military presence on the island, the latter with sovereign bases. Attempts at reunification, based around a loose confederation of the communities, stalled when Greek Cypriots voted down the UN plan by a margin of three to one on account of UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s insertion of a provision to bar their future claims before the European Court of Human Rights and vague assurances about demilitarisation by Turkey.

Having studied civil engineering at Nicosia’s technical institute, Mavrou then relocated to London to study politics and international relations at the University of London.  During this time she became active in London’s sizeable Greek Cypriot community and held a number of leadership positions in the student movement.  Once back in Cyprus, she served on the central committee of the Workers’ Progressive Party (AKEL), the former Communist Party on the island, which advocates a non-aligned and federalist Cyprus.  Mavrou held responsibility for women’s issues, human rights and, unsurprisingly, local government, which led to her two terms as a member of the Nicosia municipality (1986-1996).  She was then elected to the unicameral Cypriot House of Representatives in 2001, becoming an observer to the European Parliament during Cyprus’ final accession stages to European Union membership, and was re-elected in 2006.

The Greek Municipality of Nicosia is governed by an elected mayor and 26 councillors, one of whom serves as deputy mayor.  In 2006, Mavrou contested the Nicosia mayoral election on behalf of the coalition between AKEL, the left-wing Movement for Social Democracy (EDEK) and the centrist Democratic Party (DIKO) and took office as mayor in January 2007, resigning her parliamentary seat in the process.  Mayor Mavrou holds the Knight’s rank of Order of Merit of France, awarded by the French government.

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