In the Republic of Cyprus polls open today giving over half a million voters the opportunity to elect a new president for a five year term after Demetris Christofias said he would not stand again.
The perilous economy is top of the voters’ concerns. Eight months ago Cyprus became the fourth EU country to seek a bailout.
Exposure to Greece plunged its banking sector into crisis. The island needs 17.5 billion euros. Unemployment has soared from 5 to 15 per cent in two years.
“This is not the Cyprus we used to know, but we are hoping for a brighter future. Not for us, but for our children,” said one voter, while another added, “the prices of all products have gone up. The wages are lower now and the bleak economic scenarios are causing some people to panic.”
Eleven candidates will contest the ballot but analysts say only three have a chance of winning with conservative opposition leader Nicos Anastasiades out in front according to opinion polls. There will be a run-off next week if no candidate wins 50 percent of the vote.
The new president will have to negotiate bailout terms with the prospect of introducing harsh austerity measures on an island where private and public workers have already suffered steep salary cuts.
Our correspondent in Cyprus Stamatis Giannisis says: “For the first time since the island was divided back in 1974, the economic issues are overshadowing the political ones as Cypriots are facing an uncertain future and the prospect of long lasting economic turmoil.”