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    Here’s what I think: What we’ve learnt from the Greek Cypriot legislative elections

    The dust is beginning to settle after last Sunday’s election. The winners have been congratulated and inaugurated, the hot takes have been taken, and there are very few people who are completely happy. For that reason, there is a lot to discuss. Greek Cypriot parliamentary elections are not terrifically important in their own right, but do provide an insight as to the direction of travel ahead of the much more important Presidential elections which are due to take place in two years’ time. On account of that, here is a look at the things we’ve learnt from Sunday.

    Here's what I think: What we've learnt from the Greek Cypriot legislative elections 1
    Tom Cleaver

    Voters punish the largest parties… slightly

    The last few years have been awash with scandal, crisis, and corruption. Be it the “golden” passports handed to international criminals, and the Al Jazeera documentary that blew the top off that, the short-sighted handling of the Cyprus Problem, or the heavy-handed restrictions placed on people’s lives during the Covid-19 pandemic, the logical conclusion for most people was that the major parties would be punished at the polls.

    They were, but only a little bit. The big three of DISY, AKEL, and DIKO all suffered nearly identical 3% drops in their vote share in comparison to the last legislative elections in 2016, and DISY and AKEL lost a seat each. On the night, it seemed that many at DISY were breathing a sigh of relief that the result hadn’t been much worse for them – while losing a seat is always frustrating, they remained the largest party, and their loss of votes was relatively small compared to what could have been.

    AKEL and DIKO seemed to be more frustrated at the result, and rightly so. 2008 was the last time a party other than DISY placed first in any major election, and against the backdrop of corruption and crisis I’ve already described, the two other large parties would have been sensing an opportunity to break that trend. Instead, they also lost out, mainly due to being perceived as “establishment” parties. In relative terms, they haven’t lost much, but they will surely see this election as an opportunity spurned.

     

    ELAM increase their vote share, but have they reached their ceiling?

    Much has been made of ELAM’s rise to fourth place in Sunday’s elections – millions of words have been written, many fingers pointed, and even a few tears shed. The headline figures are alarming – ELAM increased their vote share from 2016 from 3.71% to 6.78%, and increased their number of MPs from two to four.

    However, if we take the 2019 European elections into account, a different picture gets painted. On that occasion, they won 8.25% of the vote – a total of 23,167. If we compare that number to Sunday’s total of 24,255, it looks to me like stagnation. Stagnation despite a growing anti-establishment sentiment among the electorate, despite a far higher turnout two years on, despite two more years to build on the 2019 result, and despite all the advertising before the elections and declarations of victory in the aftermath.

    For that reason, it seems to me that around 25,000 votes is probably ELAM‘s ceiling. Sure, that in itself is concerning from a moral point of view, but electorally they’re probably not going to go any higher than this, so long as turnout among non-ELAM voters stays high enough to keep it that way. Looking ahead to 2023, they’ll probably win around 25,000 votes again. I’ve listened to Christos Christou speak at rallies before, and he’s as dull as dishwater. He’s not going to inspire many undecideds to vote for him.

     

    DIPA provide the surprise of the day

    After splitting from DIKO in 2018, DIPA‘s first electoral test was the European elections, where they failed to have a single MEP elected. In polling ahead of last Sunday’s elections, they only polled above the 3.6% threshold to have an MP elected twice in a total of twenty three polls. When the results came through, therefore, and they had won a total of four, and were within 1% of finishing in fourth place, it was a big shock, and a huge victory for the party.

    It remains to be seen if this will be a flash in the pan, or if DIPA can become a permanent figure in politics in Cyprus. This result will be of concern to DIKO more than anyone else, and probably more worrying to them than their own result. As I mentioned, DIPA split from DIKO, and in the meantime DIKO have pushed themselves to become more nationalist in order to avoid haemorrhaging votes to ELAM. The existence of a viable centrist party that can take non-nationalist centrist votes away from DIKO could lead to them being squeezed on multiple fronts.

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    Only eight women were elected

    There are 56 seats in the Greek Cypriot Parliament, and eight of them belong to women. That’s about 14%, less than progressive utopias such as Bhutan, Chad, and Libya. Even worse is the fact that the current number is down from twelve in 2016. It simply isn’t good enough, on behalf of the political parties and Cypriot society at large. The North is not much better, either, with only nine female MPs out of fifty.

     

    Is it a bird? Is it a plane?

    It’s Rita Theodorou Superman! Elected in the Kyrenia district for DISY, she has quite possibly the best name of any politician, or maybe even any person I’ve ever heard of. I did a bit of research to find the origin of the name, and it is in fact her husband’s last name, which became his family name under British colonial rule. Rita’s father in law was a fireman who earned the nickname “superman” thanks to his physique, and it became the family name from that moment onwards.

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