Cypriot conservative leader Nicos Anastasiades sealed a convincing victory in yesterday’s presidential run-off vote, in a boost for hopes of a swift financial rescue for the near-bankrupt nation.
Mr Anastasiades, who favours hammering out a quick deal with foreign lenders, took 58 per cent of the vote, well ahead of Communist-backed rival Stavros Malas, who has attacked the austerity terms accompanying a rescue. Jubilant supporters waved Greek and Cypriot flags and honked car horns outside his campaign headquarters in Nicosia as the results poured in.
Mr Anastasiades, 66, 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 per cent. Pay cuts and tax rises ahead of a bailout have further soured the national mood.
Talks to rescue Nicosia have dragged on for 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 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 28 February and assume power on 1 March.