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Greek Cypriots vote in presidential runoff

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Greek Cypriots vote in presidential runoff

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Greek Cypriots head to the polls this Sunday (February 4) to either give conservative President Nicos Anastasiades a second term or to elect the left-leaning Stavros Malas.

The two men last faced each other in 2013, when Anastasiades triumphed. This year the runoff is set to be a tight one. Anastasiades and Malas secured respectively 35.5 and 30.2 percent of the vote in the first round.

More than half a million people are registered to vote. But in the first round a week ago, more than 28 percent abstained.

In Larnaca, a seaside town in Cyprus, Euronews spoke to residents to gauge their mood ahead of the election. Our reporter Marios Ioannou said it's the first time the issue of the island's decades-old division with Turkish Cypriots did not dominate the campaign nor the debates: the focus was rather on the economy and how to strengthen its recovery following a financial crisis in 2013.

"A lot of people are unemployed or, if they are working, they earn 500-600 euros a month. You can't live with that money. It's hard," said one man.

But voters also remain sceptical about whether anyone will manage to strike a peace deal, barely seven months after the latest failure to reunify the island. A recent opinion poll found that nearly 90 percent of Greek Cypriots don’t believe there will be an agreement any time soon.

Cyprus was divided into a Greek-speaking south and a Turkish-speaking north in 1974 when Turkey invaded following a coup by supporters of union with Greece. Only Turkey recognizes a Turkish Cypriot declaration of independence and keeps more than 35,000 troops in the north.

Anastasiades and Malas have been busy trying to reach out to the supporters of candidates eliminated in the first round, notably those of the centre-right Nicholas Papadopoulos, son of late former President Tassos Papadopoulos, who came in third with 25.7 percent of the vote.

Papadopoulos backs a tougher approach to the peace talks, arguing that both final candidates have been willing to make too many concessions to Turkish Cypriots. Papadopoulos and the coalition that backed him have decided not to endorse either candidate in the runoff.