Cyprus: Vote Looms as Clock Ticks | Wall Street

Cypriots head to the polls Sunday to elect a new president who will be tasked with unblocking an increasingly thorny, multibillion-euro bailout needed to rescue the island’s teetering banking system and a cash-strapped government reeling from Greece’s economic crash. Public-opinion polls show conservative leader Nicos Anastasiades, head of the center-right Democratic Rally, or Disy, party, is expected to top a three-way race for president with about 40% of Sunday’s vote. If no candidate gets 50%, a runoff would take place a week later. Mr. Anastasiades’s closest rival is Stavros Malas, backed by the Cypriot communist party AKEL, with the support of 23% of respondents. Giorgos Lillikas, supported by socialists EDEK, has about 20% backing. Even with his election likely, Mr. Anastasiades will have little time to celebrate his victory. A 66-year-old lawyer by profession, he is seen as able to get the Cypriot economy, now in its second year of recession, back on its feet. He is also a stalwart of Europe’s conservative party caucus and close to German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who publicly supported his bid during a visit to Cyprus in January. He will need those skills to help mend relations with Europe, which were sorely tested by his predecessor’s unyielding stance on austerity measures and privatizations that Europe and the IMF have demanded.

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