After election win, Anastasiades faces Cyprus bailout quagmire
By Michele Kambas and Deepa Babington
NICOSIA (Reuters) - Cypriot president-elect Nicos Anastasiades faces weeks of difficult talks with foreign lenders on a financial rescue for the island nation after sweeping to a resounding victory in a run-off election on Sunday.
Eight months of inconclusive talks on a bailout package have turned tiny Cyprus into a big headache for the euro zone, triggering fears of a financial collapse that reignites the bloc's debt crisis.
In his first comments after his victory, Anastasiades pledged to hammer out a quick deal with foreign lenders and bring Cyprus closer to Europe, in a shift from the policies of the outgoing Communist government that first sought aid from Russia before turning to the EU.
"We want Europe on our side. We will be absolutely consistent and meet our promises. Cyprus belongs to Europe," Anastasiades told jubilant supporters blowing horns. "We will restore the credibility of Cyprus in Europe and internationally. I promise you."
Anastasiades, who will be sworn in on Thursday and assume power on March 1, will have little time to celebrate.
European officials want a bailout agreed by the end of March, but the 66-year-old lawyer will first have to overcome German fears that Cyprus is a hub for Russian money laundering and worries that it will never be able to pay back its debt.
Known for his no-nonsense style and impressive access to key European policymakers like German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Anastasisades took 57.5 percent of the vote, 15 points ahead of his anti-austerity Communist-backed rival Stavros Malas.
The decisive outcome showed a clear mandate from Cypriots for an aggressive, pro-bailout approach to resolving the nation's financial quagmire, despite growing despondency over austerity measures that will have to accompany any such rescue. Continued...