Cypriot president’s party fares badly in parliamentary elections

Main Greek Cypriot parties lose out to ultra-nationalists, socialists, centrists, Greens

Cypriot president Nicos Anastasiades casting his ballot at a polling station in Limassol on Sunday. Photograph: Stavros Ioannides/PIO/AFP via Getty

Cypriot president Nicos Anastasiades casting his ballot at a polling station in Limassol on Sunday. Photograph: Stavros Ioannides/PIO/AFP via Getty

 

Ultra-nationalist, socialist, centrist and Green parties gained seats at the expense of the main Greek Cypriot parties in Sunday’s parliamentary election.

While remaining the largest party in Cyprus’s 58-member house of representatives, the right-wing Democratic Rally of president Nicos Anastasiades had a poor night, recording its worst result in parliamentary elections in 40 years.

The opposition leftist Akel and centre-right Democratic Party also struggled on Sunday.

Democratic Rally leader Averof Neophytou called upon Cypriots to choose “consensus rather than fruitless confrontation” while the country implements reforms and its economic recovery plan.

The Democratic Front, a newcomer in this election after splitting from the Democratic Party, took four seats and became the main beneficiary of a low-key campaign conducted as Covid-19 cases and fatalities fell under lockdown and vaccinations began to have an impact.

The National Popular Front, which is linked to Greece’s outlawed radical right Golden Dawn, doubled its representation from two to four seats. It took votes from the Rally, which had previously appealed to nationalists concerned over the arrival in Cyprus of undocumented migrants and asylum seekers.

Cyprus, which has the largest per-capita population of migrants in the European Union, has appealed to Brussels for aid as boatloads of Syrians continue to arrive from the mainland.

Big loser

Formerly powerful Akel was the chief loser. It has shed 10 per cent of its loyal following over the past decade.

The election was contested by 659 candidates and 15 parties. Turnout was 66 per cent, low for Cyprus, although voting was tightly regulated to prevent Covid contagion. Seven parties crossed the threshold to enter parliament, leaving eight small factions and their voters, accounting for 15 per cent of the total, without representation. Eight women won seats.

The result is unlikely to effect a decisive shift on the Cypriot political scene as the president, who is elected separately, is the chief decision-maker.

Former Rally leader and incumbent Mr Anastasiades (74) and the government have won praise for the handling of the Covid crisis and staged reopening of the economy.

However, he, his ministers and parliamentarians drew widespread criticism when thousands of wealthy investors and family members were granted Cypriot citizenship under the defunct “Golden Passport” scheme without thorough investigations into their backgrounds.

Mr Anastasiades has also been castigated for failing to make a deal with Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci to reunite Cyprus, which is divided since Turkey invaded and occupied the north in 1974 following an attempted coup by the Greek military junta.

UN-brokered talks were suspended in 2017, and Mr Akinci has been replaced by Ersin Tatar, who rejects the internationally backed bizonal, bicommunal federation formula and demands acceptance of the de facto Turkish Cypriot state, which is recognised only by Ankara. Deadlock has elicited popular protests on both sides of the island.