A record number of people submitted their candidacies on Wednesday for the parliamentary elections.
There will be nearly 660 candidates, 150 more than had stood for election in 2016, and an unprecedented 15 parties/groupings fighting for the 56 seats. Eight candidates are standing as independents aware that their probability of being elected is zero, only slightly lower than the chances of the majority of the candidates.
What is surprising is that we have a record number of candidates, at a time marked by lockdowns, curfews, restricted movements and bans on public gatherings. Even the ability to campaign has been taken away from individuals, apart from putting their picture on billboards and advertising on social media. Holding gatherings, going to village coffeeshops or visiting people’s homes have been drastically restricted by Covid-19, so there are very limited opportunities for new candidates to make their mark.
Most of the unknowns will consider it a success to be invited on a radio or television show even once during the campaign to air their views. But this means nothing because very few people are tuning in to election shows to hear what candidates have to say. Others, if they are lucky, might be interviewed by a newspaper or website, but how many people are likely to read such articles?
The same applies for the new parties/groupings such as Famagusta for Cyprus, the Animal Party, the Hunters Party and the Generation Change Movement among others. How and where will they put across their positions to make voters aware that they offer an alternative choice, if they actually do? Perhaps the Hunters Party which represents a large section of the population and therefore has a pre-existing following might win a seat or two, but the other newcomer parties are doomed to failure.
This is because the ‘alternative’ or ‘protest’ vote will be so fragmented it will have no impact. In fact, the large number of parties taking part in the elections will suit the traditional parties. They have the mechanisms to rally their supporters and could maintain their number of seats with fewer votes than they received in 2016, because of the newcomers taking votes but not making the election threshold.
There could also be a poor turn-out as a result of the low-key, almost non-existent campaign. But that might well have happened regardless given how the legislature has been turned into a House of rampant populism in recent years. And it is not as if there are many candidates standing against the populist way of conducting politics.