Cyprus votes on February 17 for new president

Voters in Cyprus are going to the polls Sunday to elect a new president who must negotiate a financial rescue to prevent a government bankruptcy that could reignite the euro zone debt crisis.

The change in leadership comes at a crucial juncture for Cyprus as the other countries that use the euro are expected to soon decide on a financial lifeline for the tiny country.

Right-wing opposition leader Nico Anastasiades has led opinion polls over his two main rivals, left-wing Stavros Malas and independent Giorgos Lillikas. If Anastasiades wins an outright majority, he would avoid a run-off vote.

Anastasiades is the most pro-bailout figure among the contenders. Malas has campaigned on a pro-bailout, but anti-austerity platform, while Lillikas has rejected a bailout, saying Cyprus could extricate itself from its financial woes by selling its natural gas reserves.

Current President Demetris Christofias is not seeking re-election.

Lagging far behind as an election issue is reuniting Cyprus after its division nearly 40 years ago into a breakaway Turkish Cypriot state in the north and the internationally recognized southern state run by Greek Cypriots.

(Photo: Nasa)