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Conservative vs independent in Cyprus presidential run-off

It is the second time that President Nicos Anastasiades has faced off against independent Stavros Malas in a run-off.

Voters in Cyprus are heading to the polls to choose between a conservative incumbent and a left-leaning independent in a presidential run-off.

It is the second time that President Nicos Anastasiades has faced off against independent Stavros Malas in a run-off.

Earlier polls have shown Mr Anastasiades beating Mr Malas, but the independent’s strong showing in the first round of voting could make it a closer race.

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Cypriot presidential candidate Stavros Malas (AP Photo/Philippos Christou)

Mr Anastasiades, 71, says Cyprus needs more of his experienced leadership to stay the course and not to repeat policies that set the economy on a downward spiral.

Mr Malas, a 50-year-old backed by the communist-rooted AKEL party, says change is needed to raise islanders’ standard of living.

A key variable is what voters who supported neither candidate in the first round will do.

More than a third of first-round votes went to candidates other than Mr Anastasiades and Mr Malas — and nearly 28% of the eligible 551,000 voters did not vote at all.

Many of those votes in the first round went to centre-right DIKO party leader Nicholas Papadopoulos.

Mr Papadopoulos has taken a tougher stance on reunification talks with breakaway Turkish Cypriots, accusing both Mr Anastasiades and Mr Malas of a willingness to make too many concessions.

DIKO and smaller parties who supported Mr Papadopoulos’ candidacy decided not to endorse either run-off candidate.

“Our country still faces problems and what’s needed is the cooperation of us all,” Mr Anastasiades said after voting on Sunday.

“Irrespective of who will be the winner tonight, tomorrow must be a day for everyone, by everyone.”

Casting his ballot, Mr Malas appealed to young people, women and low-wage workers still feeling the sting from a financial crisis that nearly bankrupted the country five years ago.

“We want to build bridges between state institutions and citizens. And the best way to do so is to always speak the truth, truth, truth and not lies,” said Mr Malas.

Cyprus was split into an internationally recognised Greek Cypriot south and a breakaway Turkish Cypriot north in 1974 when Turkey invaded after a coup by supporters of union with Greece.

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