Cypriot candidates woo kingmaker for election run-off
By Michele Kambas
NICOSIA (Reuters) - The Cypriot politician most in favor of an international bailout was in pole position to win next Sunday's run-off presidential vote as he and his communist-backed rival launched a week of bargaining to woo voters suspicious of a rescue package to stave off bankruptcy.
Conservative leader Nicos Anastasiades, who backs a swift deal with the European Union and International Monetary Fund on a bailout to fight the worst recession in four decades, faces off Stavros Malas in a second-round vote on February 24 after neither won a clear victory in the first round on Sunday.
Markets are looking at a stalemate over Cyprus getting aid with growing alarm, fearing a debt default could reignite the euro zone debt crisis just as confidence slowly returns.
Both candidates need to broaden their appeal to woo supporters of third-placed finisher George Lillikas, an independent who has said the terms of any bailout could keep Cyprus in perpetual bondage to foreign lenders.
He took a surprisingly high 25 percent of the vote, just two points behind Malas. Anastasiades, 66, took 44.5 percent, 15,000 votes shy of an absolute majority that would have spared him the need to fight a second round.
Lillikas kept candidates guessing about his intentions on Monday, saying he would consult his supporters. "After concluding this dialogue I will announce my position," he told journalists.
He said that would be on Friday, a day after Socialist EDEK party, which had endorsed Lillikas, was due to announce its own recommendation for the second round. Both run-off candidates had meetings scheduled with the EDEK leadership on Tuesday. Continued...