Nicos Anastasiades has won the Cypriot presidential election with 57.5% of the vote.
It was a comfortable victory of the centre-right leader over Communist-backed Stavros Malas on 42.5%. Stavros Malas has conceded victory.
Nicos Anastasiades takes power as Cyprus stands on the brink of bankruptcy, hit by the knock-on effect of Greece’s economic woes.
He favors a quick deal with foreign lenders to finalize a bailout of the Cypriot economy.
“It is a clear and strong mandate for change, for reform, for our country to exit this vicious circle of crisis,” Tasos Mitsopoulos, Nicos Anastasiades’s spokesman, told reporters according to Reuters news agency.
Jubilant supporters of Nicos Anastasiades’s Democratic Rally party waved Greek and Cypriot flags, honked car horns and set off firecrackers in the capital Nicosia as the results came in, said reports.
But Stavros Malas warned his party would be “severe critics of anything that diverts from the interest of the people or the country”, said AFP news agency.
The Cypriot economy is in recession and the state has little money in its accounts.
Nicos Anastasiades has won the Cypriot presidential election with 57.5 percent of the vote
Cyprus first asked the EU for a bailout last July to shore up its banks.
Because of the bailout deal for Greece, and the restructuring of its debts, which saw private bondholders suffer big losses, Cypriot banks lost about 75% of their investments.
However, the Cypriot bailout deal has foundered in protracted negotiations.
The new president will have to finalize a deal with the other 16 countries that use the euro and with the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
Stavros Malas supported a bailout but opposed austerity. Last week’s first round in the presidential election failed to produce a decisive result.
Nicos Anastasiades will aim to exploit massive natural gas finds off Cyprus’s coast, bringing in badly needed income and energy, but risking escalating tensions with Turkey.
He will also be under pressure to reach out to Turkish Cypriots in the north of the island, cut off since Cyprus was formally divided along ethnic lines almost four decades ago.
Who is Nicos Anastasiades?
A member of parliament since 1981 and leader of his centre-right DISY (the Democratic Rally) party since 1997
Says he would support austerity measures which would accompany an EU/IMF rescue package, saying the election is about “the survival of the country”
Heavy smoker known for straight-talking style – sometimes seen as autocratic
Widely respected despite political humiliation nine years ago when he supported a UN blueprint to reunify the island that was later rejected by the public
People in the Republic of Cyprus have begun voting for a new president as centre-right leader Nicos Anastasiades has a 15-point lead in the polls over his main rival, leftist Stavros Malas.
However, Nicos Anastasiades is not predicted to win more than 50% of the vote, which would be required to avoid a run-off vote on 24 February.
The election has been dominated by the global financial crisis. In June, Cyprus became the fifth member of the eurozone to request a bailout.
Shut out of the international financial markets, the cash-strapped government was forced to seek financial help after Cypriot banks suffered huge losses as a result of the restructuring of Greece’s sovereign debt.
It has requested some 17 billion euros ($22.7 billion) from the EU and IMF – a small amount in comparison with other rescues but roughly equal to Cyprus’s gross domestic product.
Negotiations have been stalled by disagreement between the EU, IMF and the outgoing President Demetris Christofias, leader of the communist Akel party, over how to address the country’s debt and who should pay.
Some investors fear that Cyprus will never be able to repay its debt, and many question its commitment to fighting money laundering and its strong links to Russia, which extended a 2.5 billion-euro loan in late 2011.
“Everything is at stake, like it has never been before,” Kyriakos Iacovides, publisher of the Cyprus Mail newspaper, told the Reuters news agency.
“The country must be rebuilt. Cyprus must be rehabilitated in the EU. We need a strong leadership to rebuild the country.”
Centre-right leader Nicos Anastasiades has a 15-point lead in the polls over his main rival, leftist Stavros Malas
Nicos Anastasiades, the head of the centre-right Democratic Rally (DISY) party, has promised a quick agreement on the bailout. He is close to Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel, who expressed support for his bid while visiting Cyprus in January.
According to the latest polls, his closest rival among the 10 other candidates is Stavros Malas, who is backed by Akel, closely followed by Giorgos Lillikas, an independent.
More than 545,000 people are eligible to vote in Cyprus. Another 14,000 Cypriots can vote at embassies abroad.
Voting is scheduled to end at 18:00 and the final result is expected to be announced at around 20:30.
The new president will also face pressure to help reunite the island, divided between Greek and Turkish communities since 1974.
A recent huge natural gas find has given some hope to the country, but with unemployment soaring and recession biting, whoever wins this election will face a daunting task.