The electoral commission of Cyprus has announced that conservative leader Nicos Anastasiades has won the runoff in the presidential election. Last week, he fell just short of taking the outright majority.
Shortly after polling stations had closed across the island-nation on Sunday, Cyprus' television stations reported that Anastasiades, the head of the Democratic Rally Party (DISY), had taken a strong lead in the runoff.
According to the electoral commission, Anastasiades won 57.5 percent of the votes, putting him 15 percentage points ahead of his main contender, Stavros Malas.
Malas, who is backed by the current ruling communist party, AKEL, garnered 42.5 percent of the vote.
Cypriot voters had clearly acted in favor of making a responsible fiscal decision, Anastasiades' spokesperson told reporters.
In the past, Anastasiades has signalled his readiness to accept austerity measures, which have stalled bailout talks with international lenders.
Choosing the DISY leader was "a clear and strong mandate for change and reforms to lift our country out of the vicious circle of crisis," his spokesman, Tasos Mitsopoulos, said.
"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," he added.
Anastasiades wants end to bailout saga
The win by the conservative party was expected to help finalize a deal with the EU and the IMF.
"The new president faces massive financial challenges - he is expected to move very quickly to finalize a financial rescue package so that Cyprus can exit from the economic crisis as soon as possible," the head of Nicosia University's Center of European and International Affairs, Andreas Theophanous, told the dpa news agency.
"Anastasiades will try to re-establish the credibility of the Republic of Cyprus and create conditions of confidence once again - both for the economy and for Cyprus' future," said Theophanous.
For nearly eight months, the EU and the IMF have been negotiating with Cyprus over the terms of a bailout of up to 17-billion-euro ($22.4-billion). As in neighboring Greece, however, the government of Cyprus has had difficulty making the deep cuts, which it must as a precondition for receiving bailout funds.
With an unemployment level at 15 percent, the presidential election focused largely on the economy. Cyprus was hit hard when Athens - for which it holds a large amount of debt - was allowed to write off some of its financial obligations as part of its bailout deal with international lenders.
kms/tm (AP, AFP, Reuters, dpa)