Cypriots vote in a presidential election Sunday more worried about securing an international bailout for the crisis-hit economy than choosing a leader to bridge the island’s decades-old divide. The vote marks the first time since independence in 1960 that progress on reunification with the island’s Turkish-occupied northern third has been forced to take a back seat. “The economic crisis has dominated the debate and the Cyprus problem is second by a long distance,” political analyst Hubert Faustmann told AFP. “Whoever comes in as president will have to sign the bailout or face state bankruptcy. These are the only two options. There is no third option,” said Faustmann, associate professor of history and politics and Nicosia University.
Nicos Anastasiades, 66-year-old leader of the largest opposition party, the rightwing Disy, is the hot favourite to win in Sunday’s first round when just over half-a-million Cypriots go to the polls.
Anastasiades, who takes a 15 percent opinion poll lead into the final days of the campaign, is seen as a man Brussels can do business with while his position on the Cyprus issue is more flexible than his rivals.
Anastasiades supported a failed “Yes” vote for a United Nations reunification blueprint in 2004, even though it was rejected by Greek Cypriots, resulting in a divided island joining the EU.
Now, the eurozone is getting ready to throw the country a 17 billion euro ($23 billion) lifeline as once-wealthy Cypriots have been forced to come to terms with austerity and soaring unemployment, running at over 14 percent.
Full Article: Economy, not North, dominates Cyprus vote.