Opposition leader Nicos Anastasiades was elected the seventh president of Cyprus in a landslide victory on Sunday and pledged to sign a bailout agreement with international lenders in a way that will safeguard vulnerable groups and social cohesion and bring peaceful labour relations.
Noting that he will restore Cyprus’ credibility in the European and international arena, the newly elected President appealed to the Turkish Cypriots sending a message of peace, friendship and sincere intention to seek a solution that will lead to a modern and European homeland.
In his speech during the investiture ceremony in Nicosia after his election victory with 57.5% of the vote, Anastasiades told thousands of supporters that all disagreements during the election campaign will be replaced by calm political speech for the sake of unity and solidarity.
His rival in the second round of the elections was the candidate of the outgoing communist government, Stavros Malas, who was also in favour of the 17.5 bln euro bailout programe with the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the IMF, but rejected austerity measures aimed to bring down a runaway public sector deficit and blamed banks for the island’s economic demise.
The 66 year old lawyer, leader of the Democratic Rally and supported by the centre-right Democratic Party and the smaller nationalist European Party, also suggested Cyprus would not exit the Eurozone, and added that newly discovered natural gas reserves off the southern coast would be utilized for the benefit of future generations, to encourage growth and reduce record unemployment.
“There are difficulties ahead. And the problems do not have a party identity or ideological shade. The difficulties are common just as the problems are and the effort to deal with them and resolve them is also joint”, he said adding that his priorities include the restoration of public confidence in politicians, radical institutional changes, the modernisation of the state structure and the restoration of meritocracy.
“I pledge to combat corruption and the state to function in a framework of absolute transparency.”
“The biggest challenge at the time is to put the economy on a stability and development course,” he added.
He said he will confer “with our European partners to achieve the soonest possible the completion of the memorandum agreement in a manner that safeguards vulnerable groups, social cohesion and peaceful labour relations.”
Anastasiades said that “when facing great challenges, we want Europe by our side. On our part, we intend to be absolutely consistent and honour all our obligations”.
Cyprus, he said, “belongs in Europe. Without deviation or doubt, we will restore our credibility in the European and international arena. One of our first acts will be to submit our application to join the Partnership for Peace”.
Our cooperation with Greece, he added, “on all levels, will once again become a top political priority”.
In his comments soon after the election results, Wilfried Martens, President of the European People’s Party (EPP), congratulated Anastasiades for his electoral victory, saying that 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. In spite of the difficulties in the negotiations for the Cyprus bailout agreement, Nicos Anastasiades can count on the support of the EPP and I look forward to welcoming [him] on March 14 in Brussels, at the EPP Summit of heads of state and government, as the 16th EPP member of the European Council.”
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