Cyprus election: Anastasiades and Malas go to run-off

Nicos Anastasiades arrives for post-polling news conference, Nicosia (17 Feb) Mr Anastasiades secured the largest share of the vote but not enough to avoid a run-off

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The presidential election in Cyprus will go to a second round on 24 February after frontrunner Nicos Anastasiades fell short of the 50% needed for an outright majority.

With all the votes counted, Mr Anastasiades, a conservative, secured 45.46%, well ahead of his nearest rival, Stavros Malas, on 26.91%.

Independent George Lillikas got 24.93%.

The election has been dominated by the financial crisis. Cyprus was the fifth eurozone state to ask for a bailout.

Initial exit polls had put support for Mr Anastasiades at an average of 51.1%, within a range of 49% to 52%.

Mr Anastasiades and Mr Malas, backed by the left-wing Akel party, will now contest the run-off vote.

Bailout talks stalled

Shut out of the international financial markets, the cash-strapped government was forced to seek financial help after Cypriot banks suffered huge losses as a result of the restructuring of Greece's sovereign debt.

It has requested some 17bn euros ($22.7bn; £14.6bn) from the European Union and International Monetary Fund - a small amount in comparison with other rescues but roughly equal to Cyprus's gross domestic product (GDP).

The BBC's Mark Lowen says that the priority for the winner of Cyprus's election will be to finalise the bailout.

Before the vote, Mr Anastasiades said he would support the austerity measures which would come with a rescue package, adding that the election was about "the survival of the country".

Negotiations have been stalled by disagreement between the EU, IMF and the outgoing President Demetris Christofias, leader of the communist Akel party, over how to address the country's debt and who should pay.

The new president will face pressure to restart talks with the Turkish community in the north of the island, which has been divided since Turkey invaded in 1974, following a Greek-inspired coup, our correspondent says.

A vast amount of gas has recently been found in Cypriot waters.

It may have to be pumped into Europe through Turkey, providing Cyprus with an economic lifeline and a chance for reconciliation, our correspondent says.

Correction 28 February 2013: We changed the wording of a sentence to make reference to the 1974 invasion and coup.

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