The most entertaining story produced by the parliamentary elections, so far, has been the dispute about the Akel name that will be printed on the ballot paper. It will no longer be ‘Akel Left, New Forces’ but plain ‘Akel’, after the Attorney-general opined that the party could only use the name under which it is registered in the political parties’ registry.
As a result, the chief returning officer rejected the longer name, forcing the party to file an application in the administrative court against this decision. On Wednesday, the administrative court issued a decision that it had no jurisdiction over the matter which had to be referred to the electoral court, but this could happen only after the elections.
Akel could now file an application at the electoral court. In the extremely unlikely event that the decision of the chief returning officer is ruled mistaken, the parliamentary elections would be declared null and void. But would Akel Left, New Forces take legal action on an issue that is of no real consequence? Would a voter not vote for Akel because it is not labelled ‘Left, New Forces’ on the ballot paper? Would anyone have noticed if Akel did not make such a fuss about it?
The party claimed it had been using this name for 30 years and had fought 16 elections without a chief returning officer deeming it unlawful. The ‘Left, New Forces’ was added to the name after the collapse of the communist countries, as a rebranding of Akel, which had often referred to itself as a communist party. It had become a party of the Left also representing New Forces a vague term deployed to signify a break with its dogmatic communist past.
After more than 30 years have passed since the collapse of communism, there is a new generation of voters that know nothing about the Warsaw Pact and do not care about Akel’s close links with the totalitarian regimes of that era. There is therefore no need to use a label that had its purpose in the immediate aftermath of the Cold War.
We are certain the Akel leadership knows this, as it knows that the absence of the label from the ballot paper would not influence voters. The party, however, has decided to exploit the decision of the chief returning officer, presenting it as part of the government’s ongoing persecution of Akel. For party leader Andros Kyprianou, this was another example of the government’s arbitrariness and heavy-handedness.
It is a smart way of cultivating a siege mentality and mobilising supporters ahead of the elections.