Outgoing Cypriot President Dimitris Christofias said Friday he was bowing out with his head held high, blaming profligate banks and a global economic crisis for financial turmoil enveloping the cash-starved island.
Christofias, a leftist leader elected in 2008, will not be contesting presidential elections scheduled for Sunday.
Right-wing leader Nicos Anastasiades is expected to win the vote, which could extend to a runoff on February 24.
“The government cannot be blamed for the economic crisis, ignoring a global crisis and the damaging responsibilities of banks and its regulator,” Christofias said in a televised address.
Once the island’s most popular politician, Christofias saw his popularity slump amid economic recession which has created record-high unemployment and empty coffers, and a deadly munitions accident in 2011 widely put down to state incompetence.
He has blamed banks’ greed and regulatory shortcomings for Cyprus’s economic collapse. Opposition parties say his government was too slow to respond to signs of trouble, dragging its feet in seeking, and then negotiating, a bailout deal with lenders.
“I am leaving with my head held high, because I believe that I did whatever I could for Cyprus, and under exceptionally difficult circumstances,” Christofias said.