Cyprus Mail

Cypriot diaspora in UK vote for change

cyps in uk 1

The Cyprus issue and the economy were at the top of London-based Cypriots’ agendas as they went to the polling stations to vote for the first round of the presidential elections.

Five out of ten polling stations operating in the UK were located in London, with three set up at the Cyprus High Commission in Mayfair, where 1,461 people had registered to vote, and two at the Cypriot community centre in North London, where 815 voters were expected.

In the run up to the elections, president of the federation of Cypriots in the UK Christos Karaolis told the Cyprus Mail that the federation had been actively encouraging eligible voters to exercise their right at the polls.

He explained that despite the huge interest the diaspora has shown in the elections, only about 10,000 of the 300,000 Cypriots living in the UK were eligible voters.

“As a federation we have engaged with many of the candidates, and we will work with whoever wins for the reunification of the island,” he said, highlighting that party representatives in the UK are not so much looking to serve party interests but rather the good of the people.

Diana Constantinide, a Cypriot barrister based in London said she felt privileged to be able to vote after exiting the High Commission on Sunday morning.

“But most importantly, by exercising the right to vote I am contributing towards shaping the future of the Republic of Cyprus,” she added, “which is why it’s very important, especially for the youth, to vote.”

Unfortunately it seems young people don’t take it so seriously, Louiza, a 22-year-old student who also helped out at the polling stations, said, explaining that many missed the deadline despite several reminders.

“Generally we did not see the interest that we should have seen during these elections, even though they are crucial to the future of the Cyprus issue, among other things,” she said.

“I would also like to see the separation of powers put in effect – I personally don’t agree with what happens in Cyprus, where we keep seeing the same people recycled into new positions,” she added.

“I would like to see Cyprus adopting more European standards, but for me the priorities are the Cyprus issue and the economy…The rest depend on how hard the opposition will fight back”.

Adrian Patsalos, president of Nepomak UK, the Cypriot youth organisation of the diaspora, disagreed with the narrative that “young people don’t care, young people don’t vote”.

“From what I’ve seen here today, it’s quite encouraging,” he said. “There are many young people here voting, many young Cypriots who came to study and stayed in the UK but also the students that are here.”

“I don’t think young people don’t care,” he reiterated. “They might be discouraged because unfortunately party leaders in Cyprus are too focused on tearing each other apart rather than working together for the best interest of Cyprus.”

Flagging the Cyprus issue as one of the priorities the new president should have, he said that “it’s tragic and it’s very demotivating for young people to see that even on the most important issue they [politicians] can’t put party politics aside and work together”.

“I take my hat off to the leaders of the party branches in the UK because I’ve seen working in the diaspora that they can put party politics aside and put Cyprus first. The party leaders in Cyprus should come learn from them.”

“The most basic thing is that the Cyprus issue is at a crossroads, if not a done deal already, so it should be the priority of any government,” said Alex, a 29-year-old Cypriot who lives and works in London.

Another issue he said he would like to see at the top of the next president’s agenda is “energy and natural gas, an issue that has been cast aside for the past decade, and how it will affect the cost of living of the average citizen, especially considering how much property prices have risen”.

Antonis, a 23-year-old student said he hopes the new president will work to help those who are financially struggling to weather the coming inflation.

At the same time, he said young people, especially students, deserve a bit more attention. The new government should look towards facilitating more graduate opportunities.

“There are so many of us [students] and they need to work on giving us more solid links and reasons to return home, instead of letting so many brilliant minds stay abroad.”

Twenty-seven-year-old chemical engineer Maria took a more measured stance, saying that as she did not side with a particular party, she watched the candidate debates to help her decide who to vote for.

“I agreed with some of Christodoulides’ points, but I thought him leaving Disy to run as independent seemed a little bit unethical,” she said.

“At the same time, I aligned with some things Averof was saying, but at the end of the day I’m not basing my decision on any of their promises, because nobody can guarantee they’ll actually follow through.

“I can’t necessarily trust any of them, but my thinking is, I’m not voting for whoever will do the most good, but rather who I think will do the least harm.”



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