Belfast Telegraph

Friday 22 August 2014

Conservative wins Cypriot election

Cypriots are voting for a leader at a critical time

Conservative candidate Nicos Anastasiades has won Cyprus' presidency by one of the widest margins in 30 years and now faces the formidable task of preventing the country from suffering a financial meltdown.

Mr Anastasiades, 66, won the runoff election with 57.48% of the vote, far ahead of left-wing rival Stavros Malas, who took 42.51%, final results showed.

The election comes as Cyprus is negotiating a financial rescue package with the eurozone's other 16 countries and the International Monetary Fund.

The wide margin of victory in favour of Mr Anastasiades indicates Cypriots are prepared, to a degree, to stomach what could be painful austerity measures to reform the economy, as well as a snub to left-wing rule that many feel is responsible for the country's sorry economic state.

Most Cypriots are aware that there's little option but to secure outside financial help - which will undoubtedly come with demands for public sector spending cuts and other austerity measures - to end the uncertainty dragging the economy down. The country has already enacted deep public sector wage cuts and tax hikes under a preliminary bailout agreement.

The vote was "a clear and strong mandate for change and reforms to lift our country out of the vicious circle of crisis," Mr Anastasiades' spokesman Tasos Mitsopoulos said after exit polls showed his candidate had won the powerful presidency.

As results trickled in, Mr Anastasiades' supporters celebrated outside his campaign headquarters in the capital, Nicosia, honking horns and waving flags.

The new president will face a tough battle convincing reluctant countries, especially Europe's economic powerhouse Germany, that tiny Cyprus deserves help after its banks lost billions of euros on bad Greek debt.

Mr Anastasiades will let the world know that "we're determined to assume our responsibilities, restore Cyprus' credibility, fight to implement change and reform while demanding from our (EU) partners to stand in solidarity with us," Mr Mitsopoulos added.

His defeated rival said the new president could count on his support if his actions were deemed to be beneficial for Cyprus. Mr Anastasiades has capitalised on what many feel were five years of failed left-wing rule under outgoing President Dimitris Christofias and his communist-rooted AKEL party that caused Cyprus' sorry economic state.

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