3 candidates vie for Cyprus' top political job

AP News
Posted: Feb 15, 2013 4:51 AM
3 candidates vie for Cyprus' top political job

NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) — Cypriots elect a new president Sunday from among 11 candidates. Here is a look at the three main candidates.

NICOS ANASTASIADES, 66: A lawyer by trade and the front-runner in the election, Anastasiades has led the right-wing Democratic Rally (DISY) party since 1997. He rose steadily through the party's ranks from youth wing leader to president and has been continually elected to Parliament since 1981. His steadfast partisanship hasn't won him many friends from the left of the political spectrum, but he is recognized for his strong leadership.

On the economy, Anastasiades aims to use his ties with European Union leaders to convince potential creditors that Cyprus will repay any loan it receives by following through with painful reforms.

On Cyprus reunification efforts, he favors a looser political partnership with breakaway Turkish Cypriots and engaging Turkey directly in peace talks, a departure from the current approach which has stalled.

STAVROS MALAS, 45: A British-educated geneticist, Malas is a relative newcomer to Cyprus' political scene, having been appointed health minister by outgoing President Dimitris Christofias in 2011. Malas' candidacy is backed by the communist-rooted AKEL party which portrays him as the sole candidate with a clean political slate that voters can trust. But AKEL's support is a double-edged sword for him as voters have come to identify the party with Christofias' perceived failed presidency.

Malas' message on the economy is oriented toward softening the bailout terms to protect salaried workers and focusing on job creation to get the shrinking economy up and running again.

On Cyprus reunification efforts, Malas subscribes to Christofias' vision of a north-south federation with a highly centralized government.

GIORGOS LILLIKAS, 52: After graduating with political science degrees in France, Lillikas returned to Cyprus in 1987 and began his political career the following year as adviser to President George Vassiliou. He was elected to parliament on the AKEL ticket in 1996 and 2001. Late President Tassos Papadopoulos appointed him commerce minister in 2003 and foreign minister three years later.

The main thrust of Lillikas' economic pitch is to immediately sell portions of the country's newfound offshore gas deposits so the country can be rid of bailout-mandated austerity within the year.

Lillikas was a staunch opponent of a U.N.-drafted plan to reunify the island, which was ultimately rejected by Greek Cypriots in 2004. He is perceived as hawkish on peace talks, saying he would restart negotiations from scratch and would eliminate any provision that would keep the two communities geographically separated.