EVERYONE seems to agree that the low turn-out for the election of Paphos mayor was an illustration of the voters’ disillusionment with politics. A little over half of the registered voters went to the polling booths on Sunday which was significantly down on the 75 per cent turn-out in the same elections four years ago. These were not elections for European Parliament which have always been marked by voter apathy, but municipal elections which are usually hard-fought contests.
But after all the revelations of corruption at the Paphos Sewerage Board in which, apart from the former mayor, councillors from three parties were implicated, people could not be bothered to waste their time on elections. There was no spectacular showing by the independent candidates that could have been interpreted as a protest vote and snub of the parties. The four independents together, took a little less than 10 per cent of the vote with remaining shred among the candidates of the parties.
Voters punished the DIKO-EDEK-AKEL alliance. DIKO and EDEK traditionally have a bigger share of the Paphos vote than their national average and, having joined forces with AKEL, should have elected their candidate. Former mayor Savvas Vergas, who faces criminal charges, was a DIKO member while his predecessor Fidias Sarikas, who could join him in the dock, once his parliamentary immunity was lifted, belongs to EDEK.
And to add insult to injury, the three-party alliance’s candidate was a DIKO man. The candidate may have been an upstanding citizen with impeccable credentials, but the alliance showed contempt for the voters by backing someone from the same party as Vergas, who was at the centre of the corruption allegations. It is this kind of arrogance – DIKO demanding holding on to the Paphos mayorship as if it were its ownership – that suggested very little had changed in the way parties view voters.
Paphos voters, to their credit punished this party arrogance, the alliance taking a paltry 27.5 per cent of the vote, the parties’ total being double that in past elections. The winner, DISY candidate Fedonas Fedonos, took 49.08 per cent, which is way above his party’s Paphos strength, voters rewarding him for first speaking out about Vergas’ shenanigans at the municipality.
Fedonos obviously took votes from the other parties indicating that party loyalties are not as strong as they once were. Voters ignoring party diktats in elections would be a positive political development if it were a new trend but this may have been a one-off caused by the exceptional circumstances that made the election of a new mayor necessary.