A fragmented political landscape is giving Elam a competitive edge in lead up to elections

European Parliament elections have seldom gathered the level of interest as the fight for the votes of local MPs. Polls however have given pundits a lot to discuss – Akel and Disy appear to be fighting it out neck-and-neck while Elam seems to have marginally usurped Diko.

With polls showing the Greens ranking among the least popular and newly emerging Volt entering the fray with some high-profile candidates, is Cyprus bucking the EU trend or moving in familiar patterns?

The simple answer according to political analyst Christophoros Christophorou is: it’s too soon to tell – for the most part. There are however interesting insights to be drawn.

With another two months still to go until the MEP and local authority elections are held on June 9, headlines have had a lot to cover: bickering between parties, in-fighting over candidates and frequent jarring statements.

According to the latest poll published in Simerini two weeks ago, Disy and Akel each have 20.5 per cent. This is followed by Elam at 11 per cent and Diko at 10 per cent, the Prime Consulting poll revealed.

“It is very clear that the current political climate is benefiting Elam,” Christophorou says.

To begin with, the two biggest parties Disy and Akel have a host of issues that they have not cleared up yet. Disy is more fragmented than it has ever been, particularly after the debacle with the presidential elections.

President Nikos Christodoulides, once a high-level member of the Disy government was eventually struck off from the party registrar when it became clear his presidential ambitions did not include the party.

He was eventually elected, garnering support from parties such as Diko, Edek and Depa, as well as a wing of the Disy party.

Recently, Disy lost its vice chairman Marios Pelakanos to Elam, who will be running as MEP for the far-right party. This has sparked alarms that he may take a portion of party supporters with him.

Akel, on the other hand, is still paying for its past mistakes, which it has never owned up to, Christophorou explains. Ranging from the Mari debacle, to the number of people that lost their jobs by Akel-backed companies during the financial crisis, “how can they vote for the party again?”

According to Christophorou, Akel never really recovered from those deep losses. Even in the last MP elections, despite the criticism levied against Disy for corruption, Akel lost points rather than gain ground.

“When it comes to intention to vote, there isn’t enough trust in Akel to implement things.”

At the same time, a steadfast Elam which has shown strategic thinking has been gathering support over the years. Particularly during the financial crisis, Elam helped people, particularly in poor neighbourhoods.

This was a direct hit to Akel, where an alignment and support for the struggling working class, is traditionally part of its makeup.

Those same people will now turn to vote for the party that helped them in their time of need.

Christophorou adds that Elam has also capitalised on the migration crisis. Now that other parties are taking on the matter and discussing it, Elam has pulled the ‘I told you so’ card from its sleeve.

As such, it can now say that other parties ignored it while Elam “warned” about this, placing itself ahead of the curve.

A growing trend of far-right parties across the EU has been observed, and as such Cyprus is no different.

The target of racial antics is always the “poorest and weakest members of society. The most vulnerable,” said Stavros Tombazos, associate professor of political economy at the University of Cyprus.

In the past, Europe’s far-right targeted the Jews. Now, the focus has shifted to people from the Middle East he said.

This was apparent in Cyprus’ streets even a few months ago when a spate of protests unfolded in Chlorakas and Limassol. People of Syrian nationality and businesses belonging to Middle Eastern individuals were targeted and smashed.

And what of the fact that Elam is showing to have 11 per cent of votes, compared to Diko’s 10 per cent?

Christophorou explains that parties such as Diko and Edek who supported Christodoulides have taken a tricky stance.

“If something perceived as good happens, they pat themselves on the back. If negative, they distance themselves.”

The analyst reflects that in the 2019 MEP elections, it looked like Edek would lose its seat to Elam. However, despite the internal losses Edek sustained over the years, members rallied around to vote, so as not to lose out to Elam.

Will it work this time for Diko? An 18 per cent of people in the poll said they do not know who they will vote for. This is a powerful amount which could go a long way in swaying the result, Christophorou argues.

Looking to parties such as the Greens, they have gained far greater momentum in the EU than in Cyprus. The poll shows a 2 per cent interest from voters, and exactly the same for Volt, a party launched only a few months ago.

According to Christophorou, the Greens in Cyprus are not exactly on the same page with the EU Greens. For starters, it has a base of Edek supporters and is seen as more hardline on the Cyprus problem.

The party too, has lost its high-profile member Alexandra Attalidou who left for Volt. The former Green party leader MP Charalambos Theopemptou stepped down from the party leadership, for Giorgos Perdikis to be re-elected again.

Where Volt is concerned, Christophorou highlighted it is always difficult for a new party to have a breakthrough. “However, because today the political forces are so fragmented,” the results could be interesting.

Time will tell.