Conservative leader wins second round of the elections with 57.48% over 42.52% for leftist candidate Stavros Malas.
Nicosia.- Cypriot conservative leader Nicos Anastasiades has sealed a convincing victory in Sunday’s presidential run-off vote, in a boost for investor hopes of a swift financial rescue for the near-bankrupt nation.
Anastasiades, who favors hammering out a quick deal with foreign lenders, took 57.48 percent of the vote, well ahead of Communist-backed rival Stavros Malas (42.52%), who has attacked the austerity terms accompanying a rescue.
Jubilant supporters waved Greek flags and honked car horns outside Anastasiades’s campaign headquarters in Nicosia as the results poured in.
Financial markets are hoping for an Anastasiades victory to speed up a joint rescue by the European Union and International Monetary Fund before the island runs out of cash and derails fragile confidence returning to the euro zone.
Anastasiades will take the reins of a Mediterranean nation ravaged by its worst economic crisis in four decades, with unemployment at a record high of 15 percent. Pay cuts and tax hikes ahead of a bailout have further soured the national mood.
“We have to choose between the lesser of two evils,” said Georgia Xenophondos, a 23-year-old receptionist who voted for a third contender in the first round and voted for Anastasiades this time, but is wary of backing more austerity.
“We are already damaged by it, and I don’t know if we can take anymore,” she said. “We’ve hit poverty, unemployment and lost respect from the EU – things we didn’t see five years ago.”
About half a million Cypriots were eligible to vote, but many abstained or cast blank votes in protest.
Talks to rescue Nicosia have dragged on eight months since it first sought help, after a Greek sovereign debt restructuring saddled its banks with losses. It is expected to need up to 17 billion euros in aid – about the size of its entire economy.
Virtually all rescue options – from a bailout loan to a debt writedown or slapping losses on bank depositors – are proving unfeasible because they push Cypriot debt up to unmanageable levels or risk hurting investor sentiment elsewhere in the bloc.
German misgivings about the nation’s commitment to fighting money-laundering and strong financial ties with Russia have further complicated the negotiations.
European officials want a bailout agreed by the end of March, ensuring no honeymoon period for the new president, who will be sworn in on February 28 and assume power on March 1.
One of the first congratulatory phone calls to the new president will come from UN Secretary General Ban ki-Moon. UN Secretary General will seek to revive the stalled Cyprus peace talks, which have been frozen for several months.
Ban Ki-moon informed the Greek FM about his intention to contact Cyprus’ new President, as well as T/C leader Dervis Eroglu, in order to seek to speed up the negotiating process. Ban intends to invite the two leaders to New York to establish whether they are willing to embark on a new round of talks.
Alexander Downer, Special Adviser of the Secretary-General on Cyprus, will be visiting the island in March and then return to New York to brief the Secretary General and the Security Council.
The stakes of the presidential elections in Cyprus are the course and the fate of the country, presidential candidate and Democratic Rally leader Nicos Anastasiades said, calling on all registered voters to exercise their right to vote.
Speaking after casting his vote at a polling station in his home town Limassol, on the southern coast, Anastasiades expressed hope that everybody or at least the majority of citizens would cast their vote and “consciously choose the future of our homeland.”
Asked if he believed there would be less abstention this week, compared to the first round of the elections last Sunday, Anastasiades expressed hope that abstention would be around a “tolerable percentage” because “higher participation will give a stronger mandate.”
“As of tomorrow, whoever is elected should know that he will have to address the important and crucial problems faced by our homeland, such as the immediate management of the financial crisis, the immediate effort to overcome the difficulties,” he said.
Furthermore, Anastasiades said “Cyprus is at a crossroads” and that “the people of Cyprus are today exercising their democratic right to determine the direction our country will take and in essence their own future.”
Presidential candidate Stavros Malas has called on the citizens to exercise their right and vote in Sunday`s second round of presidential elections, noting that they were so crucial that no one could be a passive spectator and let others make the decisions for their future.
Speaking after casting his vote at a polling station in Nicosia, Malas said “today the Cypriot people deliver the ultimate judgment in relation to their future, today the people of Cyprus will be facing a contest with their own conscience, a contest with their own political convictions, a contest with their own history, today the people of Cyprus will decide the future of Cyprus not only in relation to how we manage the economic crisis, or the Cyprus problem or indeed our natural gas resources but will decide how we perceive our future in a new Europe, because Europe is taking a new direction.”
“We do not foresee that Europe will continue on the same path as it did in the past, therefore we must have a strong presence in Europe but a presence that will first of all safeguard the interests of the people of Cyprus,” he said.
Malas noted that “the decision today has ramifications and implications as to how we manage the issue of the Cyprus problem,” adding that “we need to look back at our occupied area, we need to look back at our history, we need to look back at the causes for the division of our country and those that were responsible for that and decide.”
“This is the moment for all Cypriots to decide for all Cypriots. No one should abstain from these elections because the decision we will take for tomorrow is a new chapter for the history of Cyprus and is a chapter that is relevant to evrybody,” Malas pointed out.
He also said that “it is of course a decision that is highly relevant to how we perceive Cyprus will function in a new geostrategic area that is developing due to the discovery of natural gas.”
“Cyprus, despite the fact that it is a small country, is placing itself in a new position and that new position means new alliances and we need to choose which alliances we actually take on board; the alliances which serve the interests of the Cypriot people and nobody else,” he said.
Outgoing President of the Republic of Cyprus Demetris Christofias has called on the citizens to exercise their right to vote in the presidential elections, and called on everyone “to continue the struggle to address the many problems faced by our country.”
Speaking after casting his vote at a polling station in Nicosia, President Christofias congratulated all those who have worked for smooth presidential elections, and reiterated his call to the citizens to vote, noting that “this is a democratic right, a human right which we have to exercise and of course we are all going to respect the result.”
“I repeat my appeal to the citizens to express their sacred right to vote. I hope that the soonest possible we shall vote together as citizens of the united federal Republic of Cyprus for President and other leaders of our common homeland,” he said.
Furthermore, he expressed greetings “to the Turkish Cypriot compatriots,” saying that he has fought for “reconciliation and peace in Cyprus.”
“What I promise for Turkish Cypriots is that as an ordinary citizen of the Republic of Cyprus I will continue being a fighter for peace and reconciliation for the reunification of our beloved homeland,” he added.
Efforts by incumbent President Christofias led to the resumption of stalled peace talks in September 2008, which have not yielded a political settlement so far. The Turkish Cypriot leader suspended the talks last summer. The UN has expressed hope that after the elections, a renewed effort will begin to resume the talks.
AKEL General Secretary Andros Kyprianou has called on the voters to exercise their right and vote in Sunday`s second round of presidential elections.
Speaking after casting his vote at a polling station in Nicosia, Kyprianou said the stakes of these elections were the financial crisis, the Cyprus problem and the exploitation of the deposits of hydrocarbons in Cyprus` exclusive economic zone.
He said the crisis should be tackled in such a way that the burden did not fall on the shoulders of the workers.
“There are many other issues that have to do with the modernisation of the state, the handling of daily matters concerning and affecting the lives of the citizens,” he said, and called on the citizens to vote in a responsible manner.
President of the Democratic Party (DIKO) Marios Garoyian has said that, before the dangers faced by Cyprus, it was important to create conditions of unity, cohesion and cooperation, so that “we can all prove worthy of the history and expectations of our people.”
Speaking after casting his vote at a polling station in Nicosia for the second round of presidential elections, Garoyian said “everyone`s aim as of the day after the elections should be to create the conditions to address the serious financial problems, create conditions to support our struggle for the liberation of our homeland, restore our rights, and also create conditions for the citizens to find once again their dignity and confidence, and that of the state.”
Garoyian said the pre-election period was over and that on Sunday the people decide on their future. “Today the people of Cyprus, with collective responsibility, decide on their future, today we all decide on the future of our children and the generations to follow,” he pointed out.
“There are many challenges, there are many perils. There is much that has to be done immediately, there are many demands and undoubtedly collective action is necessary, collective responsibility is needed,” he said.
Furthermore, Garoyian expressed hope that the day after would satisfy the expectations of the people for a better future.
President of the House of Representatives and President of the Movement of Social Democrats EDEK Yiannakis Omirou has said that the presidential elections end on Sunday and as of Monday a struggle must begin to address Cyprus` problems.
Speaking after casting his vote at a polling station in Nicosia, Omirou said EDEK would continue to pursue a national strategy on the island`s political problem, work for economic recovery, through development policies, new jobs and social cohesion, and also work towards restoring the citizens` confidence in the state.