FIFTY per cent of the candidates elected to the new parliament on Sunday had not served in the old House. It is a renewal of sorts, indicating that the advertising campaign urging the voters to back ‘new’ people had been effective.
Several other records were set by Sunday’s vote: a record number of parties – eight – will be represented in the new parliament; an extreme right, nationalist party will have two seats; the two biggest parties, DISY and AKEL saw their respective share of the vote decline; 20 per cent of deputies are women, twice as many as in the last parliament; one third of registered voters did not turn up at polling stations making the abstention rate the highest ever for parliamentary elections.
The high abstention rate was the main reason the big parties fared so badly and not the fact that they had raised the election threshold to 3.6 percent, as some have been arguing, claiming they had been punished by voters. Surely, if the old threshold, just above 2 per cent, had been kept the small parties would still have secured as many seats if not more. The high abstention rate proved costly to the bigger parties which presumably saw their share of the voted decrease because they were in government.
AKEL saw its share decrease by 7 percentage points compared to 2011 because its government was considered responsible for the economic meltdown. DISY, down by 3.6 percentage points was, to an extent, blamed for the unpopular austerity measures but also suffered from defections to Eleni Theocharous’ Solidarity Movement. There are probably other reasons for their poor showing, but these are the main ones.
Now, according to the leaders of the smaller parties, with eight parties in the legislature our democracy would be more representative, which is one way of seeing the new distribution of seats. We just hope our democracy would not prove more dysfunctional with the government being unable to pass any more of the reforms needed to restore the economy’s health and keep the national debt under control. Would any privatisation legislation be passed now? Would the bills for the reform of the public service be passed?
The government cannot occasionally rely on DIKO to pass important bills as it had done in the previous parliament because the majority enjoyed by DIKO and DISY no longer exists. It is also very likely that DIKO will no longer back any government bills, for fear of losing support to the other parties of the so-called centre, such as Solidarity, Alliance, Greens and EDEK, all of which, together with AKEL, are champions of state profligacy.
The big question now is whether the new parliament would allow the government to continue its programme of economic reform. We fear the populist ideology that led the state to bankruptcy four years ago is back but it must be respected because the people voted for it.