Right-Wing Leader Hot Favorite in Cyprus Presidential Vote
The economic crisis, rather than Cyprus' decades-old divide, is expected to dominate the country's presidential elections on Sunday.
The vote marks the first time since independence in 1960 that progress on reunification with the island's Turkish-occupied northern third has been forced to take a back seat.
A fierce backlash against Cyprus communist party Akel and the current communist president Demetris Christofias is expected to give a lead to Nicos Anastasiades.
The leader of the largest opposition party, the rightwing Disy, is the hot favorite to win in Sunday's first round. His election into the presidency is expected to open the way for Cyprus to wrap up details of the bailout in March.
Anastasiades, who takes a 15% opinion poll lead into the final days of the campaign, is seen as a man Brussels can do business with while his position on the Cyprus issue is more flexible than his rivals.
The 66-year-old lawyer could even squeeze an outright victory in the first round of voting on Sunday, according to some analysts.
Nicosia requested a bailout in June when its two largest Greek-exposed banks asked for assistance after failing to meet EU capital buffer criteria.
The majority of Cypriots consider their communist president Demetris Christofias, who is not running for re-election, as the man who bears the bulk of responsibility for the island's woes.
Christofias delayed signing a bailout deal with the EU and International Monetary Fund in the final months of his administration, in the hope that Russia would provide additional rescue funds.
The island's 10% corporate tax rate, among the lowest in the EU, may be raised as a condition of a bailout that could reach EUR 17 B, equivalent to 100% of annual output.
The Mediterranean island has been divided since 1974 when Turkish troops invaded and seized its northern third in response to an Athens-inspired coup aimed at uniting Greece and Cyprus.