IN the end there were no shockers in Cyprus in Sunday’s elections for the European Parliament. Even the election of the first ever Turkish Cypriot MEP did not come as a surprise, given that Niyazi Kizilyurek was on the ballot paper of Akel, which has always attracted enough votes to elect two MEPs, and was certain to win backing from pro-reunification voters.
Edek’s campaign, urging people to vote for it in order to exclude the far-right nationalists of Elam from the European Parliament, not only worked but saw it increase its share of the vote by three percentage points compared to 2014. Although it failed to win a seat, Elam will be satisfied that its share of the vote tripled since the last election, reaching 8.25 per cent.
No woman was elected, but that was no surprise considering the candidates the two big parties fielded were not very well-known, while Eleni Theocharous’ opportunistic move to Diko for the elections was punished by voters. Most interesting was that the candidate who won the most votes was television presenter Loucas Fourlas, who stood with Disy as an independent and proudly stated after his election that he was not a politician.
Would more people have turned up to vote if there were more non-politician candidates? Probably not. More than half the registered voters (57.20 per cent) did not vote, one percentage point more than in 2014, prompting President Anastasiades to make the obligatory comment that it was worrying so many voters failed to show up at polling stations.
What is perhaps more worrying, is the degree to which party loyalty and voting discipline is displayed in the European elections in which nothing is at stake. Even in such a contest, people dare not abandon their party as happens in so many other countries and the so-called protest vote is too small to make a difference. We are not referring to the extreme case of Britain in which the fledgling Brexit Party came out on top and the ruling Conservative Party ended fifth. Disy’s share may have fallen by more than eight percentage points but it was still the winner. The Europe-wide surge in support for green parties was not seen in Cyprus.
It appears that Cypriot voters, despite complaining about their parties and politicians, are not interested in giving the big parties a jolt by backing smaller parties. They show their disapproval by not bothering to vote. Instead of shaking up the big parties it merely encourages their complacency because it allows them to preserve their share of the vote. In Cyprus, the European elections serve no other purpose than to underline the conservatism of the voters.