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Conservative wins Cyprus presidency

NICOSIA, Cyprus — Conservative candidate Nicos Anastasiades won Cyprus’s presidency Sunday by one of the widest margins in 30 years and now faces the formidable task of preventing the country from suffering a financial meltdown.

Anastasiades, 66, won the runoff election with 57 percent of the vote, far ahead of left-wing rival Stavros Malas, who nabbed 42 percent, final results showed.

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The election comes as Cyprus is negotiating a financial rescue package with the eurozone’s other 16 countries and the International Monetary Fund.

The wide margin of victory for Anastasiades indicates Cypriots are prepared, to a degree, to stomach what could be painful austerity measures to reform the economy, as well as a snub to left-wing rule that many believed is responsible for the country’s sorry economic state.

Most Cypriots are aware there’s little option but to secure outside financial help — which will undoubtedly come with demands for public sector spending cuts and other austerity measures — to end the uncertainty dragging the economy down. The country has already enacted deep public sector wage cuts and tax hikes under a preliminary bailout agreement.

Sunday’s vote was ‘‘a clear and strong mandate for change and reforms to lift our country out of the vicious circle of crisis,” Anastasiades spokesman Tasos Mitsopoulos said after exit polls showed his candidate had won the powerful presidency.

As results trickled in, Anastasiades’ supporters celebrated outside his campaign headquarters in the capital, Nicosia, honking horns and waving flags.

The new president will face a tough battle convincing reluctant countries, especially Europe’s economic powerhouse Germany, that tiny Cyprus deserves help after its banks lost billions of euros on bad Greek debt.

Anastasiades will let the world know that ‘‘we’re determined to assume our responsibilities, restore Cyprus’s credibility, fight to implement change and reform while demanding from our [EU] partners to stand in solidarity with us,’’ Mitsopoulos added.

His defeated rival said the new president could count on his support if his actions were deemed to be beneficial for Cyprus.

Associated Press

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