Cypriot voters on Sunday punished communist AKEL, likely for its perceived role in the collapse of the economy, during parliamentary elections in which the party saw a drop in support of -7.1 per cent since elections in 2011, ending with 25.67 per cent of the total vote.
Ruling DISY did not escape either, seeing a drop in support of -3.7 per cent but still coming out the winners. Though its finally tally of 30.69 per cent could be seen as boost for the government of President Nicos Anastasiades, some voters do blame the party for signing up for the deposit hair cut in March 2013, which was reflected in Sunday’s vote. Some within the right-wing party may also disapprove of the president’s handling of the Cyprus issue.
The other two established parties, centrist DIKO and socialist EDEK also saw a drop in support ending with 14.49 per cent and 6.18 per cent of the total vote respectively, while four smaller parties all gained since 2011.
Voter turnout on Sunday was however only 67.37 per cent, indicating the highest-ever abstention rate barring those of the European Parliament elections. Anastasiades said in a written statement after the final results that the abstention rate should trouble all of the political parties.
Also securing seats were Eleni Theocharous’ Solidarity Movement with 5.24 per cent of the vote, Giorgos Lillikas’ Citizens Alliance with 6.01, the Greens Giorgos Perdikis with 4.81 per cent, and ultra-right ELAM with 3.71 per cent was just over the threshold for a seat. The threshold was recently changed from 1.8 per cent to 3.6 per cent.
A Reuters report from Athens, carried a quote from Greece’s ultra-right-wing Golden Dawn. “For the first time, Cyprus will get nationalists in its parliament,” Golden Dawn leader Nikos Mihaloliakos told Greece’s parliament minutes after the exit poll results were released.
There were fireworks at the ELAM offices in Nicosia as supporters gathered outside following the final results. Party leader Christos Christou said what would concern the party now was “the day after” and solving the problems of Cypriot Hellenism, the Turkish occupation, unemployment and the fallout from the bank haircut “and the difficulties of the general picture,” he said. “We want solutions to the problems facing our people and we will do this with a sense of responsibility.”
AKEL leader Andros Kyprianou told journalists before the final count was in that the results for AKEL had been very disappointing and he could not pretend otherwise. It was obvious that AKEL voters had moved to other parties, he conceded.
“Today was a day for democracy. The Cypriot people have expressed their will. The results were not what we expected and certainly we cannot be satisfied with them,” he said.
“The Cypriot people have sent us a message and we have received it. Clearly we need to improve,” he added. “It should concern us greatly to find out the reasons for today’s results.” He said the party would meet and exchange views and take decisions but knee-jerk or emotional reactions that would involve an immediate change of leadership or any such decision. The party was badly damaged during the presidency of Demetris Christofias, not only for the lead-up to the financial meltdown but also following the naval bases explosion in Mari in July 2011.
DISY leader Averof Neophytou said that despite the difficulties, the vote proved it was the number one party in Cyprus and was a sign of support for the policies of the government, despite the drop since 2011. Cyprus, and the current government had been handed the most difficult bailout in Europe, he added, and the party accepted there would be some political cost from this because it had done its job and made the difficult decisions without populism. “We got emails from disgruntled citizens. We knew that we would have a political cost, but to save the country it was imperative to take painful measures and to stand responsibly. Even during the election period we did not make any [nepotism] promises. ”
It was also the first time so many parties had participated in the elections, Neophytou said. “We are standing before the most multi-party House of Representatives in the history of the Republic of Cyprus,” he said. “We also take on board the message sent by the rate of abstentionism,” the DISY leader added, for which some soul-searching would have to be done.
“Before us now there is a lot of crucial legislative work to do, away from populism, so we can continue on the road to stability,” he added. “This will take the widest possible cooperation and consensus to continue with reforms and development.”
DIKO leader Nicolas Papadopoulos said the party was happy with the results and that the people had, with their votes, given DIKO a “decisive role” in the country. “I declared that the DIKO result would be a positive surprise in these elections. I was wrong. In the circumstances what we have achieved is a feat,” he said. He said he was making a personal contract with Cypriots to work for a “correct solution to the Cyprus issue and for the continuation of the Cyprus Republic”. DIKO would also work to help put the economy back on track and reduce unemployment. “We should also all be concerned that one in three of our compatriots didn’t vote,” he said, adding that it was a defeat for the political system as a whole that required direct action in order the causes “corruption, inefficiency and injustice cease to exist.”
Giorgos Perdikis, leader of the Greens said it was a big win for the party, the environment, the voters and the country, given the increase in support since 2011. But it was not a time to celebrate, he said, but to rather work harder. “I want to assure those who voted for us that their vote will not go to waste,” he said, adding that the party would go forward without fear in the fight for more democracy, progress, justice and punishment of the guilty. “I also think that today the big parties have learned their lesson,” Perdikis added.
EDEK’s Marinos Sizopoulos said that amid the difficulties in the country, the party had kept is base. He said the party’s candidates had put up a good fight. “The path of the party will continue with the clear positions it has always had,” he said.
Solidarity’s Theocharous told reporters that the party was more than satisfied with the results and thanked voters for their support. Asked if she would remain an MEP or join the Cyprus parliament, she said that would be decided on Monday. “We continue steadfast the race that began about two months ago as a political movement. The results are satisfactory for us,” she said.
Alliance’s Lillikas thanked voters for their support and said it was a new era for the party and all issues would be dealt with in a serious way. “The increase of the electoral threshold proved to be a boomerang for those who imposed it,” he said, referring to DISY and AKEL.
“The major issue that should trouble everyone, is the very high rate of abstention, and this cannot be looked at with slogans or simple declarations. We should, if we are interested in the participation of society and citizens, especially young people, take those steps that will convince our young people that it is worth participating in democracy,” he added.
Nearly 500 candidates were running for office for the 56 seats in the House.
In the 2011 elections, the final tally was:
Democratic Rally DISY 20 seats (34 per cent- a gain of 2 seats over 2006)
Communist AKEL 19 seats (32.67 per cent – a gain of 1 seat over 2006)
Democratic Party DIKO 9 seats (15.76 per cent – a loss of 2 seats over 2006)
Social Democrats EDEK 5 seats (8.93 per cent – no loss or gain over 2006)
European Party EVROKO 2 seats (3.88 per cent – a loss of one seat over 2006)
Green Party 1 seat (2.21 per cent – no loss or gain over 2006)
Polls closed at 6pm Chief Returning Officer Constantinos Nicolaides said there was no reason to keep the polling stations open, though the option was there.
Voter turnout was 67.37 per cent, a 32.63 abstention rate. The total turnout in 2011 was 78.7 per cent, which was over 10 per cent down on 2006.
Registered voters stood at 542,915.