Nicos Anastasiades, leader of Cyprus’s main opposition Disy party, won the first round of presidential elections, falling short of an outright victory, as Cypriots voted for a new leader amid fears of an economic collapse.
With all the votes counted, Anastasiades, 66, received 45.5 percent of the vote compared with 26.9 percent for Stavros Malas, who was backed by the communist Akel party of outgoing president Demetris Christofias. Anastasiades and Malas will face off in a runoff on Feb. 24.
Independent candidate George Lillikas placed third with 25 percent.
Cyprus’s new president faces the challenge of reviving stalled talks with the European Union on a financial rescue to save the island nation from a financial collapse. Cyprus has been negotiating for eight months with the so-called troika of the European Commission, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund over terms of a bailout, which could equal the size of its 18 billion-euro ($24 billion) economy.
The country, which became the fifth euro-area member to request international financial aid in June 2012, has been shut out of debt markets for almost two years, with lenders including Bank of Cyprus Plc and Cyprus Popular Bank Plc losing 4.5 billion euros in Greece’s debt restructuring last year.