NICOSIA, Feb. 17 (Xinhua) -- Cypriot voters went to the polls on Sunday to elect a new president.
The polling stations opened at 0500 GMT. The first election results were expected shortly after polling stations closed at 1600 GMT.
A total of 11 presidential candidates are running but only three are considered to be serious contenders.
Nicos Anastasiades, leader of the Democratic Rally party who is also supported by the Democratic Party, the island's third largest political grouping, is widely expected to emerge as the winner.
Anastasiades was expected to gain an absolute majority of the vote in the first round or win by a comfortable margin in a runoff election next Sunday.
In case of a runoff, Anastasiades likely would face Stavros Malas, a former health minister in the outgoing government who is supported by the current government left wing AKEL party, or Giorgos Lillikas, an former minister supported by the socialist EDEK party and a section of other center party voters.
The latest surveys showed that Anastasiades would get 45.7 percent of the votes in a runoff against the 31 percent Malas was expected to win.
The winner will face pressing problems left behind by outgoing President Demetris Christofias who did not run for a second term.
The new president will be called upon to deal with a deep economic crisis that has forced Cyprus to seek an international bailout. His first major task is to finalize a bailout agreement and secure enough cash to run the state over the next few months.
The new president will also have to handle the long-lasting Cyprus problem, seeking a solution in negotiations with the Turkish Cypriots to reunite the eastern Mediterranean island.
The island state has been divided by a military buffer zone since 1974, when Turkish forces occupied the north after a Greek-led coup attempt.