THE CAMPAIGN for the European parliamentary elections officially begins today, even though the parties in Cyprus have already begun angling for votes, presenting their candidates and their election promises. Admittedly, there is nothing of substance for the parties to promise the voters as there are just six Cyprus MEPs in a 766-member parliament.
They are unlikely to make the slightest difference in the European Parliament and, understandably, nobody expects big things from them. Cypriot MEPs who have served in the parliament, often issue announcements if they say something at the plenum or at a parliamentary committee, when the Cyprus problem comes up, which is not very often, or one of their colleagues takes a pro-Turkey stand on a specific issue. Very occasionally, some may express an opinion on non-Cyprus related issues, but nobody back home seems to be remotely interested.
This is perfectly understandable considering that our MEPs have no power, and negligible influence. Each joins the parliamentary group their party is associated with and follows the line of that group; nationality is of no importance, with MEPs voting on political lines.
This is the reason there is such voter apathy for the European elections in Cyprus, which always boast a low voter turnout. An opinion poll conducted for the CyBC last week, found that 36 per cent of the electorate did not intend to vote in the elections. Not surprising, even though the parties and the media attributed the forecasted low turnout to disillusionment with the politicians and the parties.
The truth is that disillusionment and disappointment with the politicians is nothing new – 85 per cent of those who would abstain gave this as their reason – but in presidential and parliamentary elections there has always been a healthy turnout. Parties would embark on a battle against abstentions reported one newspaper yesterday, but we suspect this is a losing battle, even though there will be some rallying of supporters as the election approach.
Yet even the attempts to combat apathy are anything but convincing. For instance EDEK and the Greens who have joined forces have been arguing that abstaining from voting constituted tolerance to scandals, corruption and plundering of public coffers. But would voting in European parliamentary elections end the corruption and ensure the punishment of the “thieves and crooks” as Greens have claimed? It will do nothing of the sort but with these claims the parties are encouraging voters not to take the elections seriously.
Nothing is really at stake in these elections, which are little more than an opportunity for the parties to gauge their electoral strength.