After Averof Neophytou, the leader of the ruling right-wing DISY party, was unexpectedly ousted in the first round of voting on February 5, Nikos Christodoulides, a 49-year-old former foreign minister who is now running as an independent, enjoys a slim lead.
He will compete against Andreas Mavroyiannis, a 66-year-old self-described independent and former permanent representative of Cyprus to the UN who served as lead negotiator in peace negotiations with Turkish Cypriots, in the run-off election on Sunday.
While Mavroyiannis is supported by the left-wing AKEL, Christodoulides is backed by a scattering of center- and right-of-centre parties.
Polling stations close at 6pm (16:00 GMT) in the race to succeed two-term conservative President Nicos Anastasiades as head of state and government of the small European Union member country.
Anastasiades, of DISY, is prevented from seeking a third term by law and has said he backs the party line.
The next president faces problems ranging from a deadlock in reunification talks with Turkish Cypriots on the ethnically divided island and labour disputes stemming from runaway inflation to fallout from corruption scandals and a rise in migration.
Many disaffected voters will simply opt for “the least worse candidate a characteristic in most elections, but more so in this one”, said Andreas Theophanous of think tank the Cyprus Center for European and International Affairs.
The winner needs 50 percent plus one vote to succeed Anastasiades as the republic’s eighth president.
The outgoing president urged Cypriots to come out “en masse to participate in this electoral process”, adding that “this is our duty. The people decide, the majority decides and the minority respects.”
Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkish forces occupied its northern third in response to a Greek-sponsored coup, but voters appeared split over whether the division was a priority in the election.