Rightwing leader Nicos Anastasiades won Sunday’s presidential election in Greek Cyprus, securing a mandate to seal a crucial bailout for the EU state on the brink of bankruptcy, the electoral commission announced.
Disy party head Anastasiades, won 57.5 percent of the vote in a second round runoff against 42.5 percent for communist-backed Stavros Malas.
Short after his victory, Anastasiades has extended an olive branch to Turkish Cypriots. “What interests us is a solution that will not only be accepted by Greeks, but of course by Turkish Cypriots as well, particularly a solution that creates the expectation of development,” he said.
Anastasiades vowed for a solution that combined the European Union. “I am addressing the Turkish Cypriot citizens. I want to express my intention for an European solution that will lead us to peace, fraternity and a modern nation, respectful of the human rights of every citizen and that will create expectations of progress and welfare. We want a country undiscriminating and multicultural. In this effort to end an unacceptable situation with regards to the EU and international community, I am sure that we will have the backing of all our friends. A new stage starts today for Cyprus.”
Anastasiades supported a failed “yes” vote for a U.N. reunification blueprint in 2004, known as the so-called “Annan plan”, even though it was overwhelmingly rejected by Greek Cypriots, resulting in a divided island joining the EU.
Anastasiades also pledged to secure an “earliest possible” bailout for the financially crippled EU state and winning support from the European Commission chief.
“We intend to discuss and cooperate … with our European partners so as to achieve the earliest possible completion of the MoU (bailout) agreement in a manner that safeguards vulnerable groups, social cohesion and peaceful labour relations,” he said in a victory address.
“We will implement an ambitious programme of structural changes and reforms both in the state and in our economy,” Anastasiades said.
“Cyprus belongs in Europe. We will restore our credibility in the European and international arena.” Disy spokesman Tassos Mitsopoulos said Anastasiades had been given “a clear and strong mandate to battle for Cyprus,” in upcoming negotiations with Brussels over the terms of an estimated 17-billion-euro ($23-billion) bailout package.
Earlier, exit polls released as voting stations closed in the run-off election had showed Anastasiades clinching between 57 and 61 percent of the vote against an estimated 38-42 percent for communist-backed candidate Stavros Malas.
The announcement sparked instant celebrations as a large flag-waving crowd gathered outside the Nicosia headquarters of the winner’s Disy party and supporters honked car horns across the capital.
Pambos Papageorgiou, an MP from Malas’ Akel party, conceded defeat, telling the state broadcaster: “We consider that he (Anastasiades) has been elected and we congratulate him.” The election was being closely watched across the 17-country Eurozone for any hint of how soon lengthy bailout talks for the Mediterranean island’s stricken economy can be finalised.
Eurozone finance ministers had deferred a decision on the terms for an estimated 17-billion-euro ($23-billion) bailout package until negotiations take place with the new leader.
Anastasiades, 66, favours a swift EU bailout agreement for the island and says he accepts the harsh measures required to secure it, while Malas campaigned on a pro-bailout but anti-austerity ticket.
“I voted for Anastasiades … I think he’s the best politician we have in Cyprus and now we have a lot of economic problems in our country and we have the best chance with him,” said restaurant owner George Rossides, 54.
EU conservatives vow to back new Cyprus president
Meanwhile, the EU’s biggest parliamentary group, the centre-right EPP, rushed to congratulate fellow rightwinger Anastasiades for his election as the new president of Cyprus.
In a statement issued as final results gave Anastasiades 57.5% of the vote, the European People’s Party also pledged to back his efforts to secure a bailout for the EU state, currently on the verge of bankruptcy.
“Cyprus now has a reliable president that inspires confidence in Europe,” said EPP president Wilfried Martens.
“In spite of the difficulties in the negotiations for the Cyprus bailout agreement, Nicos Anastasiades can count on the support of the EPP,” he added.
“On behalf of the entire political family of the EPP, I congratulate my good friend Nicos Anastasiades for his impressive electoral victory,” said Martens.
“The people of Cyprus have sent a strong message to Europe by putting their trust into a person that has the leadership qualities and the credibility to bring the country out of the current economic crisis.
Sunday’s victory sees Cyprus become the 16th EU nation headed by an EPP member. The EPP is the largest European-level political party of the centre-right.