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    Here’s what I think: A preview to the Greek Cypriot legislative elections

    Tomorrow (Sunday 30th May), Greek Cypriots will be heading to the polls to vote in a new parliament. The campaign in general has been a slow-burner, but has gradually garnered more and more attention as election day edges closer. Excitement has hardly reached “fever pitch”, but that is to be expected given the political system in which these elections take place.

    Here's what I think: A preview to the Greek Cypriot legislative elections 1
    Tom Cleaver

    For those unaware, the Greek Cypriot political system operates in the carcass of the Constitution of the Republic of Cyprus. The Constitution was written with the intention that governmental checks and balances would take place between the constituent (Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot) communities rather than the branches of government. The government is formed by the executive and not the legislature, and for this reason the legislature is pretty powerless and inconsequential.

    A difficult election result for the party of government can make their life difficult, but it can’t bring about a change of government in the same way that Hüseyin Özgürgün’s government gave way to Tufan Erhürman’s following the 2018 Turkish Cypriot legislative elections, nor can an “unfriendly” majority in parliament render a President politically isolated as Mustafa Akıncı was from the formation of the UBP-HP government in 2019 until he himself was voted out last year.

    The Greek Cypriot government will be the same on Monday morning no matter the results, and could next change in 2023, when presidential elections will be held. This has tempered excitement somewhat, but an election is an election, and I’m a politics nerd with a platform to spread information, so here is a preview to the elections, and those taking part in them.

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    Here's what I think: A preview to the Greek Cypriot legislative elections 2

    DISY are the party of government, and currently the largest party in the parliament too. They are the party of the centre-right, though have historically had a more reconciliatory stance to the Cyprus Problem. They were the only major party to support the Annan Plan in 2004, but were pulled in a more nativist direction by President Nicos Anastasiades following the Crans Montana conference in 2017, which he collapsed. Parliamentary leader Averof Neophytou seems willing to take the party back to its 2004 stance, holding regular meetings with Turkish Cypriot politicians in the run-up to last month’s Geneva conference.

    Their campaign this time around has come straight out of the focus groups – it’s been full of words like “seriousness” and they’ve been presenting themselves as the responsible, grown up choice – a move which plays well to a Greek Cypriot electorate which is ever-fearful of being labelled immature. They also called in the backup of Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, who spoke at length in support of the party. Electorally, this is a good play – Greek Cypriots are by and large far more receptive to the words of Greece’s head of government than Turkish Cypriots are to Turkey’s. Whether it’s morally right to have a foreign head of government interfere in your electoral process, I’ll leave up to you.

    In all likelihood, DISY will win the most votes and the most seats tomorrow, and will pat themselves on the back at a campaign well-run.


    Here's what I think: A preview to the Greek Cypriot legislative elections 3

    AKEL are the party of the Greek Cypriot left, and after their unfathomably stupid decision to torpedo the Annan Plan in 2004 have attempted to position themselves as the party of Cypriot reunification.They have been the party of opposition since losing the presidency to Nicos Anastasiades in 2013, but in recent years haven’t really been able to lay a glove on DISY.

    This year, they’ve taken their campaign to the internet, with online adverts aplenty on YouTube and other websites, featuring punchy music and idyllic pictures of Kyrenia, further pushing the idea of themselves as the party of a united Cyprus. As I mentioned before, however, they haven’t really been forcing any issues as an opposition party should, and spent the first few months of this year distancing themselves from grass roots movements that tried to.

    AKEL will remain the second largest party in the parliament, but after a lacklustre few years, will likely find themselves treading water. Furthermore, thanks to being squeezed by smaller parties on the left sprouting up and offering attractive alternatives, for example the Ecologists and Famagusta for Cyprus, they will likely find their vote share at least slightly reduced.


    Here's what I think: A preview to the Greek Cypriot legislative elections 4

    DIKO have long been the third largest Greek Cypriot party, and centrists with a hint of nationalism. In recent years, however, they have found themselves heading in a more nationalist direction in order to cover off the threat of haemorrhaging votes from their base to ELAM. In that sense, they have succeeded in keeping much of their base together, but have for the time being at least likely brought their own ceiling down somewhat. DIKO in its current form would not be able to find a consensus to win elections and govern in the same way that pre-Annan Plan Tasos Papadopoulos was able to.

    Their campaign has scratched the nationalist itch, and also positioned the party as “anti-corruption”, and a viable third-way alternative to DISY and AKEL. They illustrated this with a fictional character called “Makis”, who grew frustrated at DISY and became a DIKO voter, but this was terrible, everyone laughed at them, and they deleted it within hours of it being published.

    DIKO will likely find themselves once again in third place, probably with little movement from 2016. If Nikolas Papadopoulos has serious ambitions of becoming President in 2023, he will at this point have to pull some rabbit out of the hat to propel himself and his party forward.

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    Here's what I think: A preview to the Greek Cypriot legislative elections 5

    If 2016 saw ELAM let in through the back door, then tomorrow may see them fully established and legitimised as a political force in the south of Cyprus. The neo-nazi former branch of Greek criminal organisation Golden Dawn have increased their vote share in almost every single election since their formation in 2008, and now seem to have the numbers to make a serious impression on Greek Cypriot politics.

    I wasn’t in Cyprus for the 2016 legislative elections, but it seems to me that there are far more billboards and advertising material for ELAM now than I saw in the lead-up to the 2018 presidential elections or the 2019 European elections, where they won 5.65% and 8.25% respectively. A combination of anti-establishment feeling, dissatisfaction with the status quo, and good old-fashioned racism seems to be sweeping them to another election of increased vote share, and maybe a permanent seat at the table of Greek Cypriot politics.

    The polls have ELAM locked in a fight with the Ecologists for fourth place, and I think they will win that fight. It seems to me that they are likely to win more than 10% of the vote this time around – a number which if carried over to the presidential elections in 2023 could make king-makers of them.

    Here's what I think: A preview to the Greek Cypriot legislative elections 6

    As for the other parties, it seems that the Ecologists will take fifth place, and considerably increase their vote share from 2016, having presented themselves this time around as a left alternative to AKEL, and also in favour of electoral reform. EDEK and the Citizens’ Alliance are running on a joint centre-left ticket this year, though have been largely anonymous in the campaign and are unlikely to reach the 10% cutoff for coalitions. DIPA are heading into their first legislative election after splitting from DIKO in 2018 over disagreements regarding the latter’s handling of the Cyprus Problem. They are hovering around the 3.6% cutoff for single-party tickets, as is the Generation Change party, another broadly progressive movement which split from the Citizens’ Alliance. 

    None of the other parties, including Eleni Theocharous’ nationalist conservative Solidarity Movement and the pro-reunification Famagusta for Cyprus look likely to trouble the 3.6% figure, but the latter hope that their existence may trouble the major parties enough that more emphasis and focus will be placed on the reunification of Cyprus in the coming years.

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