Cyprus opposition leader tops presidential poll

Pro-bailout candidate Nicos Anastasiades is destined to become Cyprus's new president, according to a newspaper poll published on Sunday which gives him an unassailable lead a week before the vote.

Main opposition leader Anastasiades, of the rightwing Disy party, remains the front-runner at 42.1 percent, followed by communist Akel-backed Stavros Malas (21 percent) and former foreign minister Giorgos Lillikas (19.4 percent), the Phileleftheros newspaper poll said.

Earlier polls in the week showed similar percentage yields.

Anastasiades will need 50 percent plus one vote to secure the presidency on February 17, but the race is likely to go to a run-off the following Sunday with Malas and Lillikas neck and neck.

The poll shows the Disy leader will have a tougher fight if Lillikas makes it through to a run-off, as Anastasiades would garner 45.3 percent against his opponent's 32.4 percent.

With Malas, he would secure a comfortable 52.3 percent against the Akel candidate's 28.1 percent.

Lillikas is the only one of the three who argues against a bailout, pledging to defend Cyprus from any perceived loss of sovereignty in negotiations with international lenders.

Phileleftheros said Anastasiades also came on top among voters who see him as the best candidate to handle the economic crisis with a 50 percent rating, compared with 20 percent for Malas and 16 percent for Lillikas.

Seven out of ten people polled also believed that Anastasiades would become the next president.

The poll was conducted between January 31 and February 6 using a random sample of 1,188 voters. The margin of error was given as plus or minus 3 percent.

Nicosia is anxious for swift approval on the terms of a European Union bailout to help revive the recession-hit economy and save its Greek-exposed banks.

Eurozone finance ministers are waiting until after the elections to decide on a bailout deal in the hope of securing more concessions.

Without an aid package, deemed to be in the region of 17.5 billion euros, the state would effectively go bankrupt.

Talks have dragged on since Nicosia asked for EU aid in June after its banks failed to meet recapitalisation criteria.

Cyprus has already imposed tough austerity measures to meet the demands of eurozone creditors for more than one billion euros in cuts and savings.