Conservative Nicos Anastasiades, who backed an international bailout plan that comes with hard austerity measures similar to those imposed in Greece, rolled to victory in the Cypriot Presidential run-off election on Feb. 24 with a big victory over his Communist-backed challenger Stavros Malas.
The final result of the second round of the presidential election in Cyprus showed Anastasiades got 57.48 percent, while Malas collected 42.52 percent of the vote.
Turnout was slightly smaller than in the first round, at 81.5 percent against 83 percent, but the number of invalid votes was three times as high as the first round, the newspaper Kathimerini reported.
“What is paramount at the moment is the unity of the people. Now Cyprus takes priority,” said a calm Malas upon conceding his defeat.
Greece’s Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, a fellow Conservative who is implementing pay cuts, tax hikes and slashed pensions, telephoned Anastasiades and congratulated him on his election, according to Cypriot state broadcaster CyBC. Anastasiades, a lawyer born in Limassol 66 years ago and educated in Greece and in Great Britain, will be sworn in on March 1.
He takes over from outgoing Dimitris Christofias, a Communist whose single term was widely panned for his failure to re-unify the island with Turks occupying the northern third since a 1974 invasion, and the near-collapse of the economy because of the island’s banks heavy holdings of Greek bonds that were devalued by 74 percent last year as Greece was desperate to write down its staggering $460 billion debt.
Anastasiades will have to hit the ground running as the banks are still near failure and the country frantically needs a bailout of up to 17 billion euros ($22.44 billion,) an amount nearly equivalent to its Gross Domestic Product. Officials of the Troika of the European Union-International Monetary Fund-European Central Bank (EU-IMF-ECB) are scheduled to meet next month to discuss the rescue package that is being eyed warily by some because of Cyprus’ reputation as a bank haven for organized crime and money-launderers.
The vote was “a clear and strong mandate for change and reforms to lift our country out of the vicious circle of crisis,” Anastasiades spokesman Tasos Mitsopoulos said after exit polls showed he would be a clear winner, the Associated Press reported. As results came in just after polls closed, Anastasiades’ supporters celebrated outside his campaign headquarters in the capital Nicosia, honking horns and waving flags.
Anastasiades will let the world know that, “We’re determined to assume our responsibilities, restore Cyprius’ credibility, fight to implement change and reform while demanding form our (EU) partners to stand in solidarity with us,” Mitsopoulos added. His defeated rival said the new president could count on his support if it would help their country.
“I state that we will stand by the new president if we assess his actions and policies to be for the good of the country because the unity of our people is what’s most important right now,” Malas said as he conceded the election. “At the same time, we will be strong critics of whichever actions and decisions that we deem not to serve the country’s best interests.”