Cypriots are voting in the second round of their presidential election. The outcome could decide whether or not the island nation secures a bailout deal with the European Union and the International Monetary Fund.
Conservative leader Nicos Anastasiades faced off against communist-backed Stavros Malas in the presidential runoff vote on Sunday, as the economically embattled Mediterranean nation struggles to shore up its dismal finances.
Anastasiades (pictured above) fell just short of winning outright in the first round last Sunday, securing 45 percent of the vote. Malas came in second with 27 percent and the socialist-backed George Lillikas finished last with 25 percent. Lillikas has refused to support either Anastasiades or Malas in the second round of voting.
The presidential election has focused on the economy, with Cyprus currently facing 15 percent unemployment. A major holder of Greek debt, the island nation was hit hard when Athens was allowed to write off some its financial obligations as part of its bailout deals with international lenders.
Bailout at stake
For nearly eight months now, Cyprus has been negotiating the terms of a 17-billion-euro ($22.4-billion) bailout with the EU and IMF. But the talks have stalled over austerity measures demanded by international creditors as a precondition for finalizing any deal.
The 66-year-old Anastasiades, head of the opposition Disy party, wants to quickly seal a bailout agreement and accepts the austerity measures that would accompany it. The 45-year-old Malas on the other hand, backed by the incumbent Communist Akel party, opposes the austerity measures.
“We must end the uncertainty, and give Cyprus back its lost international credibility and prestige in Europe,” Anastasiades said as he wrapped up his campaign.
Some 545,000 Greek Cypriots are eligible to vote at 1,139 polling stations. Cyprus has been divided between the Greek south and Turkish north for some 40 years. But the division has played only a minor role in the election.
slk/ipj (AFP, dpa, Reuters)