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Nicos takes the crown [with video]
CYPRUS’ problems are far from over, President-elect Nicos Anastasiades said last night, as he pledged to conclude a bailout agreement as soon as possible in a bid to put the island back on the path of stability and growth.
Speaking to his supporters after cruising to victory in yesterday’s run-off vote, the DISY leader sought to unite Cypriots in the face of adversity.
“The problems we face are neither partisan nor ideological. The challenges and the problems we face affect all of us. That is precisely why we must all focus on dealing and resolving them,” he said.
The 66-year-old lawyer took 57.5 per cent of the vote, 15 points ahead of his anti-austerity AKEL-backed rival Stavros Malas.
Anastasiades said there were no winners or losers in yesterday’s elections but if there must be a loser “that should be pessimism and frustration. In this respect, the winning party should most definitely be hope and positive prospects.”
Anastasiades immediately 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 all our obligations. Cyprus belongs to Europe," he told jubilant supporters waving Greek flags and blowing horns. "We will restore the credibility of Cyprus in Europe and internationally. I promise you."
President of the European Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso, assured Anastasiades that he can count on help from the European Commission.
In a phone call after the results became known, Barroso said he assured Anastasiades “that he can count on the continued commitment of the European Commission to assist Cyprus to overcome the challenges it faced.”
The president of the European People’s Party (EPP), Wilfried Martens said the people of Cyprus “have sent a strong message to Europe by putting their trust into a person that has the leadership qualities and the credibility to bring the country out of the current economic crisis. Cyprus now has a reliable president that inspires confidence in Europe.”
The president-elect pledged to usher in a new era in Cyprus but warned that the island’s troubles were not over.
“The elections are over. The problems, however, are far from over and so are the difficulties faced by the people and the country alike,” the president-elect said. “The biggest challenge at this moment is for our economy to be set on the path of stabilisation and growth.”
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.
“We intend to discuss and cooperate in a reliable manner with our European partners so as to achieve the earliest possible completion of the MoU agreement in a manner that safeguards vulnerable groups, social cohesion and peaceful labour relations,” he said.
Among his priorities, he said, was the restoration of public confidence in politicians through radical institutional changes, modernisation of the state and restoration of meritocracy.
“We will implement an ambitious programme of structural changes and reforms both in the state and in our economy,” the president-elect said.
Known for his no-nonsense style and hot temper, Anastasiades chided his supporters when they voiced disapproval of his opponents - Malas and third-place Giorgos Lillikas - and when, during his speech, he made an appeal to Turkish Cypriots.
He told the crowd that they should realise that the country would be partitioned if there was no co-operation with the Turkish Cypriots.
“I appeal to our Turkish Cypriot compatriots, and send a message of peace, friendship and sincere intention to seek a solution that will lead to a modern and European homeland that will respect the human rights of all its citizens and create the potential for progress, prosperity and the wellbeing of all citizens of the Republic of Cyprus,” Anastasiades said.
Anastasiades, who counts fellow conservative German Chancellor Angela Merkel among his contacts, has stressed his pro-European credentials stand him in better stead to seal a deal than the outgoing president, who is the EU's last Communist leader.
In a clear shift with the policies of his predecessor, Anastasiades said one of his first tasks would be to apply for Cypriot membership of the NATO-affiliated Partnership for Peace.
The Communist government had strongly objected to any NATO links, holding it responsible for what it says was a conspiracy to split the island in 1974.
"We need a government with weight that can talk to (EU) partners, that is cooperative, that can be heard and do what it pledges to do," the 2010 Nobel laureate for Economics Christopher Pissarides told Reuters.
"We hadn't been doing this until now. The most important thing is to signal our willingness to cooperate (with the EU)."