Anastasiades wins Cyprus presidential vote
Conservative leader Nicos Anastasiades, of the Democratic Rally party, has won a decisive victory in Cyprus’ presidential run-off vote on February 24. Anastasiades took between 57.5 and 61.5 percent of the vote according to an exit poll by Cypriot state broadcaster CyBC. The poll shows that his communist-backed rival Stavros Malas trailed with between 38.5 and 42.5 percent of the vote. Anastasiades favours hammering out a quick deal with foreign lenders to rescue the Cypriot economy, which is close to bankruptcy. He pledged during his campaign to speed up progress towards an agreement with the European Union and the International Monetary Fund before the island runs out of cash.
Italian election results point to political paralysis
Italy faced political paralysis Monday as near-complete results in crucial national elections showed no clear winner and raised the possibility of a hung parliament.
A major factor in the murky result was the astonishing vote haul of comic-turned-political leader Beppe Grillo, whose 5 Star Movement has capitalized on a wave of voter disgust with the ruling political class. That has coupled with the surprise return as a political force of billionaire media mogul Silvio Berlusconi, who was driven from the prime minister’s office at the end of 2011, to roil the Italian ballot. Berlusconi’s alliance was neck-and-neck with centre-left leader Pier Luigi Bersani’s coalition for both Parliament’s lower house and the Senate.
The decisions Italy’s government makes over the next several months promise to have a deep impact on whether Europe can decisively stem its financial crisis. As the eurozone’s third-largest economy, its problems can rattle market confidence in the whole bloc and analysts have worried it could fall back into old spending habits. The unfolding uncertainty raised the possibility of new elections in the coming months, the worst possible outcome for markets that are looking to Italy to stay the course with painful but necessary reform.
Latvia ready to join ‘stable ship’ of eurozone, insists central banker
The head of Latvia’s central bank has told MEPs that his country is on course to join the eurozone in 2014, despite the crisis faced by the single currency. Giving evidence to the Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee on 26 February 2013, Ilmars Rimsevics said that the economic and monetary union was a big and stable ship “that Latvia would like to board”. He highlighted that Latvia was the fastest growing economy in the EU for the second successive year but that becoming a eurozone member would make the country even more stable.
The committee also heard from Latvian Finance Minister Andris Vilks who said Latvia was coming “closer and closer” to a balanced budget, and that better than expected revenues meant that the country was reducing poverty and inequalities. He added that he expected to be able to increase the minimum wage from next year. If Latvia joins as planned in 2014, it will become the 18th member of the single currency. Six EU countries – Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Hungary, Lithuania, Poland and Romania – are still to set a date for joining the single currency, whilst Denmark, Sweden and the UK maintain an opt-out.