Posted: Feb 17, 2013 10:13 AM
Updated: Feb 17, 2013 10:16 AM
NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) The right-wing front-runner in Cyprus' presidential elections held a strong lead in Sunday's voting, according to exit polls and early official results, but it was unclear if he had enough votes to win outright without need for a runoff.
The new president will have to tackle a financial crisis that has forced the country to seek international rescue money to stay solvent.
For an outright victory a candidate needs at least 50 percent plus one vote of the ballots cast. Otherwise, the top two candidates go to a runoff the following weekend.
An exit poll for state broadcaster CyBC projected right-wing candidate Nicos Anastasiades as winning 49.6 -52.6 percent, compared with 25.8-28.8 percent for left-winger Stavros Malas. Independent Giorgos Lillikas trailed in third place with 17-19 percent and appeared to be out of the race.
Three other exit polls had similar predictions.
However, partial initial results showed Malas and Lillikas neck-and-neck for second place. With 20 percent of the vote counted, Anastasiades had 45.23 percent, Malas had 26.33 percent and Lillikas was close behind with 25.68 percent.
The change in leadership comes at a crucial juncture for Cyprus as the other 16 countries that use the euro are expected to decide next month on a financial lifeline for the tiny country of less than a million people.
Cyprus is fast running out of cash to pay its bills, and the new president faces the difficult task of overcoming skepticism from some bailout-weary euro area countries to secure help.