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The final countdown to Cyprus’ presidential election on February 17 has begun and the main contenders for the job are crossing swords over the struggling economy and the Cypriot issue.

Current president Dimitris Christofias, from the communist party AKEL, has decided not to run again. Many Cypriots blame him for the country’s economic crisis which has forced the government to seek help from the IMF and Europe

Eleven candidates are fighting to capture the largest share of the island’s 545,180 registered voters, who are set to cast their ballots at one of 1,139 polling stations at home and abroad.

Recent opinion polls put the President of the Democratic Rally (DISY), the left party of Cyprus, Nikos Anastasiadis in the lead. But the election is expected to go to a second round a week later, on February 24.

Candidates

• Nikos Anastasiadis (Lawyer – MP), supported by DISY and DIKO (leftist party and democrats)
• Stavros Malas (Geneticist) – supported by AKEL (communist party)
• Georgios Lillikas (Political Scientist) Independent-supported by EDEK (socialist party)
• Praxoula Antoniadou-Kyriakou (Economist) – supported by EDI (Liberal party)
• Makaria Andri-Stylianou (Assistant Director of Primary Education) – Independent
• Lakis Ioannou (Citizen Rights Consultant) – supported by LASOK
• Costas Kyriakou-Outopos (Farmer- Writer)
• Andreas Efstratiou (Entrepreneur)
• Lukas Stavrou (Painter, Writer) – supported by EDIK
• Solon Grigoriou (Farmer) – Independent
• Giorgos Charalambous (Unemployed) – Supported by ELAM
Estimates

In Cyprus, two television debates have already been held among the three main contenders. Nikos Anastasiadis, Stavros Malas, and George Lillikas revealed their agendas on the economy and the Cypriot issue.

According to the latest CBC poll, Nikos Anastasiadis is leading the race with an estimated 38 percent of the vote, Stavros Malas is expected to come in second on around 24 percent and George Lillikas third on nearly 20 percent. A survey by Symmetron Market Research predicts a similar outcome.

If Anastasiadis gets to confront Malas in the second round, he would win (44 versus 29 percent), according to the CBC data.

In case of a run-off battle between Anastasiadis and Lillikas, the former would win (41 versus 32 percent).

Political analysts in Cyprus stress that the final result will be determined by the voters of the Democratic Party and the abstinence rate, which is likely to come from DIKO supporters and the young voters.

The Challenges

The first priority for whoever wins will be to negotiate a rescue plan with international lenders to help Cyprus out of its economic crisis.
Estimates suggest that Cyprus needs 17.5 billion euros for the recapitalisation of its banks. Any possible agreement before the election, is very likely to determine the outcome of the vote. But several European counterparts remain suspicious of transparency issues concerning the country’s banking system.

Another major issue is the unemployment rate, at 14 percent. The gloomy economy, along with Russia’s promise to help save the Cyrpiot economy, could be another major factor that determines the election result.

Electoral System

According to the Interior Ministry, the final results will be known at approximately 20.30. By 19.00, one hour after the polls close, Cypriots will know if the president will be elected in the first round. The election is estimated to cost 8 million euros. The budget for the first round is 4.650 million euros. There will be a single ballot paper. 575,000 ballot papers will be printed. 2,000 unemployed people will work during the election process.

Copyright © 2014 euronews

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