By Angelos Anastasiou
The voting of a law raising the electoral threshold to 3.6 per cent by ruling DISY and opposition AKEL sparked a new round of criticism on Friday from smaller parties that are unlikely to renew their parliamentary presence next year.
The new threshold, which will apply as of the May 2016 legislative elections, replaced the previous minimum of 1.8 per cent.
Under the new rules, entry to parliament will still be decided at district level in the first instance, but in the second distribution of unallocated seats only parties that have won at least 3.6 per cent nationwide will be eligible for seat allocation.
An additional amendment to the electoral system stipulates that any seats left unallocated after the second distribution will be shared by parties that have won at least 7.2 per cent of the national vote.
The smaller parties objected to the bill, saying it undermined representative democracy.
With the exception of DISY and AKEL, only DIKO can be considered confident to preserve its parliamentary presence under the new electoral rules. Even EDEK, which won 8.9 per cent of the vote in 2011, securing five seats, could run into trouble as it is likely to bleed votes to Giorgos Lillikas’ Citizens’ Alliance.
A series of legislative proposals for the introduction of ‘horizontal vote’ – a system allowing voters to select individual candidates from the entire ballot, rather than those nominated by the parties they vote for – by smaller parties were rejected by the plenum.
EDEK leader Marinos Sizopoulos said the leaderships of AKEL and DISY are trying to block political parties from entering parliament through raising the entry threshold.
“Their cooperation was affirmed once again at the House on Thursday, unfortunately effecting democratic aberration,” he said.
“The leaderships of DISY and AKEL managed to amputate democracy by foreshadowing their ultimate goal: governing unobstructed in parliament and covering up the scandals and graft they are burdened with,” said the Citizens’ Alliance.
The Green party went even further, arguing that the two parties’ ultimate goal was none other than the Cyprus problem and their rumoured behind-the-scenes cooperation.
“The two big parties, hand in hand, decapitated democratic pluralism on Thursday, because the voice of truth bothers them,” spokeswoman Eleni Chrysostomou said.
“It seems that the endgame of their cooperation on the abolition of democratic pluralism is their mutual understanding over the Cyprus problem.”
Joining forces with detractors, House Speaker Yiannakis Omirou said the introduction of a majority system could only be justified in parliamentary system of government.
“The increase [of the electoral threshold] does not serve democracy,” he said.
“In a presidential democracy, as in Cyprus, there is no need for exaggeration with regard to the electoral system, and under no circumstances should the principles of simple proportionality be violated.”
Meanwhile, the government will have no trouble holding the upcoming parliamentary elections under the new rules, Election Service boss Demetris Demetriou said.
“All it’s going to take is amending the percentages in the software,” he said.
He added that the electoral list for the May 2016 elections will close on April 2.