Could Cyprus ever produce an election result like Sunday’s in France, which elected Emmanuel Macron as its president? Could a 39-year-old independent candidate without the official backing of any of the main political parties – Macron cut links with the Socialist Party and set up the En Marche! political movement a year ago –ever have a chance to become the president of Cyprus?
Admittedly, Macron did not appear from nowhere, as he had served as Minister of Economy for two years from 2014 to 2016 and was earlier an official of the Socialist Party, but this does not make his achievement any less remarkable. He received the most votes in the first round while in Sunday’s run-off against the National Front’s Marine Le Pen his victory emphatic, taking 61 per cent of the vote.
We do not know if next February’s presidential elections in Cyprus could produce such a result but any would-be independent candidates will have taken some encouragement from what happened in France. It may just be that France’s parties do not have such a hold over the voters as they do here. Then again, this hold is weakening as the relatively low turnout in last year’s parliamentary elections would suggest. One third of registered voters did not turn up to vote last May.
Although it would be a mistake to claim that the one third of the electorate that snubbed the elections would vote for an independent, non-party candidate in February, the percentage still indicates a relatively high level of disaffection with the political establishment. The increase in the share of the vote of the smaller parties also suggested disaffection with the two big parties, Disy and Akel. Whether this could give impetus to an independent candidacy is another matter.
Much would depend on the independent candidate’s qualities, personality, communication skills and policy proposals. Would he or she resort to the familiar campaign tactic of making promises to all interest groups and playing the hard-line card on the Cyprus problem as is the standard practice? This would not work, because an independent candidate would also have to move away from the hackneyed political discourse of the traditional parties if he or she is to be a credible alternative.
Whether the risk-averse Cypriot voter would be ready to back someone new that might give politics a much-needed shake-up is another matter. The conditions favour a big change but we are still waiting for the candidate that would seize the opportunity to step forward.