After Elam received the fourth highest number of votes in May’s parliamentary elections and secured four seats, there have been countless articles bemoaning the rise of the extreme right nationalists and arguing this posed a big threat to democratic society. Most of the parties, meanwhile, have avoided taking a stand with the exception of Akel, which objected to Elam taking the presidency of any House committee.
In the end, however, Disy, which presumably wanted to reward Elam for backing its candidate for the House presidency, ensured the party was given the ad hoc committee of demographics. Elam had a legitimate claim to the presidency of a House committee as much the other smaller parties; it has more seats than the Greens, which was given the environment committee and the same number as Edek and Dipa, which each took a committee presidency. Nobody, apart from the parties, really cares which party’s deputy will have the chair of a House committee, even though giving the presidency of the committee of demographics to an anti-immigration party might be a bit too much.
Objectionable as some of Elam’s beliefs are, we cannot ignore that it won the support of thousands of voters in democratic elections, voters that believed it could best serve their interests. It certainly had links with the criminal Golden Dawn of Greece and may have started out as a subsidiary of it, but can it be declared guilty by association? The truth is that Elam has not exercised any violence, incited violence or broken any laws. In short, it is just another political party seeking public support.
Apart from the anti-immigration stance, which is nothing unusual nowadays and is embraced by parties all over Europe, Elam is not very different from other Cyprus parties. Its hardline stance on the Cyprus problem is very similar to that of Edek and Solidarity while on socio-economic issues it is as populist as the rest of them. Ironically, it champions the interests of the poor and dispossessed with as much vigour as Akel, because it is also targeting the working-class voters.
The increase of Elam’s strength in the last elections, understandably, is a concern, but we live in a democracy and we cannot outlaw a party because educated people disapprove of some of its odious views or its past links with the neo-Nazi party of Greece. We can criticise its positions and rhetoric as much as we like, but we also have to accept, unappealing as this may be, that it is now a part of the political system.