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Conservative set to win Cyprus presidency

By The Associated Press

This article was published February 23, 2013 at 12:28 p.m.

— Battered by a debt crisis, a leadership vacuum and facing near-empty coffers, Cyprus is holding a presidential runoff Sunday, a vote that conservative Nicos Anastasiades is expected to win handily.

Anastasiades, the 66-year-old leader of the Democratic Rally party, is going to have to act fast once he does get in office, quickly securing a financial rescue package so his country can avoid a bankruptcy that would trigger more turmoil among the 17 nations that use the euro.

He won 45.5 percent of the vote in last Sunday’s first round, well ahead of left-wing newcomer Stavros Malas who won 26.9 percent and independent Giorgos Lillikas with 24.9 percent.

Lillikas has not chosen to endorse either candidate in the two-man runoff but political analyst Christophoros Christophorou said Lillikas’ supporters are a diverse bunch who are unlikely to tip the scales against Anastasiades. The conservatives have capitalized on widespread discontent over what many view as five years of failed rule by outgoing President Dimitris Christofias and his communist-rooted AKEL party. An Anastasiades campaign billboard reading “Could you stand another five years of the same?” plays to that discontent.

“I would be very surprised if there’s no landslide in favor of Anastasiades,” said University of Cyprus political science professor Antonis Ellinas.

Cyprus, a divided island of around a million people in the far eastern end of the Mediterranean, is one of the smallest members of the 27-nation European Union and faces deep political and economic problems.

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