By Constantinos Psillides
POLITICAL PARTIES are rolling out the “big guns” to fight abstention and voter apathy in the upcoming euro elections.
On Monday, it was main opposition party AKEL’s turn to appeal to voters, with party general secretary Andros Kyprianou warning that abstaining only enforced the status quo.
Kyprianou said in a press conference that voting sent a clear message to Europe while abstention and indifference empowered European leaders to take decisions that harmed Cyprus.
“Against austerity measures, against raids on our wages, pensions and rights and faced with the sale of our homes and privatisations, we need to react,” said Kyprianou. “Send them the message that their policies are a dead end. That they constructed a European Union that has nothing to do with the Europe we envisioned, a Europe that promotes peace not war, a Europe that stands by democracy and not extreme Nazi movements.”
The AKEL general secretary went to attack president Nicos Anastasiades and ruling DISY for the deposits haircut decided by Eurogroup in March 2013, accusing them of “letting Cyprus become a lab-rat”. Kyprianou also attacked the European People’s Party (EPP), saying it was responsible for the austerity measures imposed on European countries and that not showing up to vote was to approve of these policies. “They are counting on your tolerance and indifference to keep imposing the same anti-social policies,” he warned.
He made a special plea to party voters, asking them to not shy away but to support AKEL “in its time of need” and that not voting for AKEL meant that DISY “will carry on unchecked”.
AKEL is expected to take a serious hit in the May 25 elections. A poll conducted by CyBC on April 12 showed that AKEL could see its support base slump to 22.4 per cent since the last Euro elections, when it got 34.9 per cent and narrowly lost the race to DISY. AKEL’s higher echelon refutes the analysis, pointing out that AKEL voters rally en masse to support the party very late in the campaign.
Abstention in the 2009 Euro elections was the largest ever recorded, when 40 per cent of the electorate decided not to show up. A poll commissioned by an unnamed political party, that was leaked by Onlycy.com, showed that almost half of the voters (48 per cent) in the 2014 elections would not vote.
The CyBC poll claimed that abstention will be around 27 per cent but it was conducted a month ago while OnlyCy claims that their poll was conducted only days before.
Meanwhile the latest Eurobarometer survey, conducted for the European Commission in March, indicated results that do not bode well for the parties’ efforts to turn the tide of voter apathy and distrust. According to the survey, only 7 per cent of Cypriots trust their political parties, with 91 per cent expressing distrust. The percentage of those expressing trust in the government was just 22 per cent, with 74 per cent saying they did not trust their rulers. The House of Representatives fared even worse, only 15 per cent said they trusted it, with 83 per cent saying they did not.
The survey also shows major distrust towards the EU, with 22 per cent saying they trusted the EU and 74 per cent saying they did not.
AKEL is not alone in the battle against abstention. DISY leader Averof Neophytou addressed a party youth convention on Saturday urging youngsters to go and vote while all political parties have issued ads aiming at getting people to the voting booths.