Right-wing leader Nicos Anastasiades won the Cyprus Presidential election balloting on Feb. 17, but without the 50 percent majority he needed to claim the office outright and will face the Communist-backed Stavros Malas in a run-off.
The two were vying to take the seat of a country suffering a crushing economic crisis and needing an international bailout. Incumbent Demetris Christofias, a Communist, didn’t run again, meeting his vow not to seek the office again if he failed to re-unify the island that has been divided since Turkey invaded and seized the northern third in 1974 in a bloody war.
The DISY party head Anastasiades received 45.46 percent, with Malas, backed by the AKEL party, far behind at 26.91 percent. Exit polls earlier had shown that Anastasiades would win enough of the vote to become President without a second round of voting, which will take place on Feb. 24.
Former foreign minister George Lillikas came in third with 24.93 percent and was eliminated, the state television RIK reported with 99 % of the vote counted. After the results, DISY supporters honked car horns and waved flags in celebration with the margin showin their candidate will be the odds-on favorite to win the office.
Malas advocated playing tough with international lenders who want austerity measures similar to those they demanded in Greece, which is also receiving rescue aid. Anastasiades was more willing to work with the Troika of the European Union-International Monetary Fund-European Central Bank to save the country’s economy, brought to its knees by a near bank collapse caused by the institutions holdings in Greek bonds which the Greek government wrote down 74 percent in value last year.
The vote came at a critical time for Cyprus with the Eurozone set to decide next month on whether it would receive a bailout amid much criticism the island is used by organized crime as a money-laundering center. The island’s government has already imposed spending cuts to meet the lenders’ terms.
Cyprus could need as much as a 17 billion euros ($22.65 billion) rescue package, about equivalent to its entire Gross Domestic Product (GDP) which could make repayment nearly impossible, setting off anxiety in some Eurozone countries who are reluctant to put up the money to help. roduc
“Cyprus needs an adjustment program, a comprehensive one,” Joerg Asmussen, a member of the European Central Bank’s executive board, told Germany’s ARD television. He said it needs to reduce its banking sector and said that “financial help will be needed for that, but in order that there can be such a program Cyprus must make efforts in advance — this is not a one-way street.” He made those comments before the results were in.
As he cast his ballot, Anastasiades urged voters to look beyond partisan lines when choosing who to back. “Above all else, we must all unite forces, to counter this economic crisis which unfortunately our homeland has never experienced before,” he said. Malas told voters they should not turn their backs on what his party had done.
For the first time since the Turkish invasion, the economy was the most important issue for voters. Christofias never got his counterpart on the Turkish-Cypriot side, Dervis Eroglu, to engage in serious negotiations and a stalemate resulted.
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