Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

Cyprus Confronts Its Fiscal Future ; Voters Have Few Choices When It Comes to Bailout and Strict Austerity Plan

Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

Cyprus Confronts Its Fiscal Future ; Voters Have Few Choices When It Comes to Bailout and Strict Austerity Plan

Article excerpt

People in Cyprus, painfully aware of the struggles of Greece, will vote in an election where both candidates seem to concede the need for a bailout that would necessitate harsh austerity measures.

Evagoras Georgiou will go to the polling station at the Tsireio middle school in the St. John neighborhood here for the presidential election Sunday. But he will leave his ballot blank, voting for neither of the two candidates in the runoff for Cyprus's most powerful political office.

Both candidates have promised to abide by a deal with international lenders that promises to help the country service its debts but will bring harsh austerity and recession with it.

Mr. Georgiou, 28, studied business management in Britain and returned almost a year ago to look for work. He has yet to find a job and believes that a deal with the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund, known collectively as the troika, will only make matters worse.

The two candidates "both have the same policies but find a way to make the public believe they disagree," Mr. Georgiou said. "We see that any country with a troika agreement is ridden with debt and has high unemployment of youth."

This small Mediterranean nation goes to the polls on Sunday at a moment of rising uncertainty and apprehension. Nicos Anastasiades, the leader of the conservative party Democratic Rally, is expected to beat the independent candidate, Stavros Malas, who is backed by AKEL, the Communist party.

Mr. Anastasiades comes from the same conservative bloc in Europe, the European People's Party, as Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany. Ms. Merkel came here for a party conference and met with Mr. Anastasiades.

But for the subject that preoccupies many Cypriots, the anticipated bailout, the difference may be slim. Mr. Malas has called for a softening of the harshest austerity measures but otherwise has promised to stay the course with the sort of budget- slashing measures advocated by Germany that have led to deep recessions in other European countries.

"Fundamentally, the average Cypriot and even the average politician realizes this model being imposed by Germany all over Europe is flawed," said Bambos Papageorgiou, a member of the Cyprus Parliament's finance committee from AKEL who used to work in the London derivatives market. "But our situation is such that we can't avoid negotiating."

Cyprus has known adversity. The island has been divided since the Turkish Army invaded it in 1974. U.N. peacekeepers still patrol the buffer zone, which runs through the center of Nicosia, the capital.

Graffiti written in black spray paint near one of the blue and white guard posts at the edge of the zone on the Greek side reads, "Troika Go Home."

Cyprus has been unable to raise money in international bond markets for a year and has only been kept afloat by a loan of $3. …

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