Cypriot voters went to the polls to elect their European representatives for a fourth time since joining the EU. Overall, there were 641,181 registered voters, 80,862 of which Turkish Cypriots (TCs). The elections were contested on the system of proportional representation. However, the small number of seats allocated to Cyprus (six) suggests that the threshold for achieving representation amounts to 16.6%; a high barrier to entry for any small or new party. There were 13 parties//platforms contesting the elections (compared to 10 in 2014) and three independent candidates (eight in 2014). The total number of candidates increased to 72 compared to 61 in 2014. Twenty (20) women run in the elections compared to 14 in 2014. Two TC electoral platforms took part with six and two candidates respectively, whereas another TC featured in AKEL’s ballot (overall nine TC candidates).
The pre-electoral political setting
Electorally, the polls initially predicted a clear-cut win for the right-wing DISY. Gradually though, as the campaign progressed it became evident that the left party, AKEL, had significantly closed the gap even challenging for the primacy not least because the party appealed directly to the TCs by including –for a first time- a TC candidate in its ballot.
The most significant puzzle of these elections, however, was the winner of the sixth seat: a very close contest between social democratic EDEK and the extreme right party ELAM (a branch of the Greek Golden Dawn).
The campaign was entirely Cyprus-centered: only national issues featured. These included, inter alia, the status of the economy, issues of corruption, the Cyprus problem, the participation of a TC candidate with AKEL and the introduction of the national health system. European issues were sidelined and the stakes were directly linked -by all parties- to the national context. The political setting became increasingly polarized in the last weeks of the campaign with AKEL and its TC candidate becoming a focal point of discussions and controversies receiving a host of nationalist attacks.
Electoral result (%)
Number of seats
EDEK (social democrats)
ELAM (extreme right)
CYPRUS SOCIALIST PARTY
Two things singled out in terms of electoral results beyond party percentages. First, the persisting high rate of abstention which rose once again (from 56.03% in 2014 to 57.20% in 2019). Second, the increased, albeit overall small, number of TC voters: 5604 TCs voted representing 6.93% of their total eligible number compared to 1856 and 3.19% in 2014. Moreover, in terms of party-systemic variables the fragmentation of the party system was once again verified.
In terms of party results the outcome of the elections revealed winners and losers which must be separated in electoral and political terms. Electorally, ELAM (+5.56%), EDEK (+2.9%), DIKO (+3%) and DHPA for the most part and AKEL (+0.5%) on a second level were clearly on the winning side. DISY and the Greens-Citizens Alliance were those that lost the most. The far right party ELAM continued to rise for a seventh election in the row, which is arguably the most worrying trend.
Politically, the results revealed three important messages: a) a disapproval of the governing DISY, the government and their policies; b) despite the increased vote share of the far right, the results showed a democratic reflexive response by the public barring their entrance in the EP; c) AKEL’s bi-communal ballot and particularly the election of a TC candidate with AKEL was a strong message regarding the need to solve the Cyprus problem particularly because he was targeted by nationalistic circles and the governing party during the campaign.
Three different leftist platforms/parties contested the elections, the most significant among them AKEL, which eventually polled 27.5%. The others were two small TC political platforms, the Turkish Socialist Party and the Jasmine that scored a mere 1.76% between them.
AKEL seems to have exited a very difficult period which begun in 2011. After consecutive unpleasant electoral performances since the 2013 presidential campaign, which also included one European (2014) and one national parliamentary (2016) election, the party slightly increased its vote share compared to 2014 which indicates a stabilization. Moreover, the party maintained its two seats. However, a significant portion of the party’s past voters continue to refrain from voting the party, thus leaving AKEL with the difficult task of finding ways to approach them again.