By Peter Stevenson
ELECTION services are concerned about the large number of new voters who have yet to register in time for the European Parliament (EP) elections in May. A total of 18,000 letters were sent out to new voters but just over 600 have responded. The last day to register to vote on May 25 has been set as April 2.
Head of election services Demetris Demetriou said he believed that the number of people abstaining from the EP elections will be more than those actually voting.
He said that politicians should be concerned that elections are losing their importance in some peoples’ eyes and hoped that the media could contribute as much as possible to publishing any election service announcement to encourage people to register to vote.
“Some 18,000 letters were sent to new voters and the response we received was very disappointing,” he said.
Some letters were returned due to a change in address but at least 16,000 letters were delivered to new voters and Demetriou said the response was minimal. Currently only 621 Greek Cypriots and two Turkish Cypriots have registered to vote in the EP elections, while 7,500 letters were sent to overseas Cypriots with only 140 of those registering so far.
Voting centres will operate in the UK, Greece and Belgium, Demetriou added, with 25 to 30 ballot boxes estimated to operate during the elections. He said that due to the crisis, efforts would be made to limit the number of voting centres abroad and at home.
“I would attribute the minimal interest to people’s anger. We have received phone calls from people complaining that we only remember them during election time,” Demetriou added.
He said that the Interior Ministry is trying to promote automatic registration to vote and it will be voted on during the House Plenum today.
“Automatic registration is one thing, but minimal interest is something that should worry politicians and the political parties, enough to make them look at and correct the picture people have painted in their minds,” he said.
Demetriou added, “I am very worried that those abstaining will be more than those voting regardless of whether Turkish Cypriots register to vote. My estimation is that abstention will be greater than those voting in the government controlled areas”.
There are currently 541,222 people registered to vote and if Turkish Cypriots are included the number could rise by about 95,000, Demetriou added. The head of election services estimated that with new voters and overseas Cypriots registering, the number of those eligible to vote could rise to 650,000.
A total of 6,000 overseas Cypriots were registered to vote during the previous EP elections in 2009, while another 7,500 letters were sent this year for new registrations.
The elections will be officially announced on April 17 with a decree from the Interior Minister, while political parties’ campaigning may begin at their own discretion.
Demetriou said that in the coming days an election service website will operate in Greek, English and Turkish.
The total budget for the elections comes to €3.5 million and efforts will be made to limit the costs as much as possible.
Those wishing to register locally can visit the Interior Ministry site (www.moi.gov.cy) while those abroad can visit evars.elections.moi.gov.cy to register.