Cyprus goes to a second round

As expected, centre-right candidate Nicos Anastasiades finished well clear of his rivals in yesterday’s presidential election in Cyprus. It was not, however, quite enough to avoid a runoff: official results give him 45.5%, with communist Stavros Malas on 26.9%, independent Giorgos Lillikas just behind on 24.9% and eight minor candidates sharing the remaining 2.7%.

Anastasiades and Malas will contest the runoff next Sunday, with  Anastasiades an unbackable favorite.

According to the BBC, exit polls had significantly overstated Anastasiades’s vote, suggesting that he might win a majority in the first round. That may reflect some systematic factor, such as voters being unwilling to admit to voting for the left, but it may be just poor technique by the pollsters.

Media coverage has focused on economic issues, and specifically on Cyprus’s response to the European financial crisis. If that was really uppermost in voters’ minds, it’s bad news for the European left, which has had some good results in the last 18 months. Anastasiades is a supporter of the austerity measures that Cyprus has promised to implement in return for financial assistance.

My personal view is that the financial crisis, although of course genuinely serious, is not quite the all-encompassing disaster that the media portray, so I suspect that a lot of different issues helped determine the result – including the ongoing quest for reunification with the Turkish north, which I talked about a bit in Friday’s preview.

In yesterday’s other election, Ecuadorian president Rafael Correa has claimed a first-round victory on the basis of the exit polls. Final results are expected mid-afternoon Australian time, so we’ll have another look at it then.

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