Elections like never before will be held next Sunday. In one visit to the ballot box, people will have to vote for Members of the European Parliament, a district governor, a mayor or a community leader, a deputy mayor, municipal or community councillors and members of school councils. There will be 61 candidates standing for six seats in the European Parliament and 3,232 for different posts in the reformed local government.

It is the first time ever that two different elections will be held simultaneously, but while this will prove less costly than holding them separately it is certain to cause confusion. This confusion has been evident in the election campaigns running in parallel, billboards with candidates springing up everywhere, television discussions featuring an array of candidates, not to mention the candidates popping up on websites and social media. It has been difficult to keep track of who is who and who is running for what.

On the plus side, the combination of the votes will ensure a better turnout for European elections, for which it was a very low 45 per cent the last time they were held in 2019. It was so low that European Parliament president Roberta Metsola has twice recently referred to the poor turnout and urged Cypriots to exercise their voting right on June 9, saying that “your vote counts.” But does it? There will be 720 MEPs elected next Sunday (up from 705) and Cyprus will elect six of them. They will then join one of the many groupings and disappear in there. This is the reason more than half the voters did not bother going to the ballot box five years ago.

Even the campaigning for these elections is underwhelming as the candidates are aware of their very limited power as an MEP and cannot tell voters much more than that they would ably and responsibly represent Cyprus in the European Parliament. Inevitably, each candidate promotes his or her personal qualities rather than political positions or ideas because these are irrelevant, and voters know it. In fact, the only issue debated in this campaign is the danger of far-right Elam winning a seat, which would most probably be at the expense of Edek. If Elam does win a seat Cyprus would only be following the Europe-wide trend that has seen the rise of the far-right parties.

Although local government elections are different in that the winning candidate will have an impact on people’s daily lives, the contests will be about individuals rather than political positions. None of the parties have any coherent policy proposals for local government because party lines have been completely blurred by expediency. Diko will back a Disy candidate for mayor in one municipality and an Akel candidate in another in which a Disy candidate is standing. All the parties have engaged in this type of horse-trading because they have no real policy about local government.

In mitigation, it could be said that nobody knows how the new municipalities will operate, how independent they will eventually be, the scope of their powers and their ability to improve the daily lives of their voters. The new municipalities and the creation of the district governor are experiments that will be practically tested after June 9. At present, nobody knows how the reform will work as the parties when chopping and changing the government bills were more concerned about creating more public positions than ensuring the effectiveness and viability of local authorities. The ludicrous idea of electing deputy mayors, who will have no powers at all while taking a handsome monthly salary, belonged to the political parties.

In this political confusion and uncertainty, the underwhelming election campaign is perfectly understandable. Whether it will lead to voter apathy and a low turnout remains to be seen. Perhaps the novelty of voting for so many different officials would persuade more people to go to the voting stations than in 2019.