Cypriot voters went to the polls for parliamentary elections on Sunday amid public anger over the ‘golden passport’ corruption scandal on the Mediterranean island.
Despite the fury, the first exit polls showed the conservative DISY party was apparently poised to remain the biggest force in parliament, but once again without a majority, forcing President Nicos Anastasiades to continue governing at through a minority government.
Ultra-nationalists who had sought to exploit the anti-establishment mood and played on migration concerns instead appeared to have made gains, while smaller parties appeared to have failed to attract the protest vote.
Unusually for Cyprus, the decades-old divide between the island’s Greek and Turkish communities played little role in this year’s election campaign.
A record 658 candidates, representing 15 parties, contested 56 seats in parliament out of an electorate of over 550,000.
The election was limited to government-controlled areas, excluding the northern third of the island where a separatist Turkish Cypriot state reigns.
An exit poll by state television channel CyBC gave DISY 29% and the main opposition Communist party AKEL 24%.
Exit polls also suggested that the ultranationalist ELAM party could almost double its share to over 6% of the vote, and could get more than the two seats it currently holds.
ELAM was born as an offshoot of the controversial Golden Dawn party of Greece and first entered parliament in 2016.
Official results were expected later Sunday evening.
– ‘Be fed up’ –
Analysts said DISY had its share of the vote, with other major parties unable to exploit public discontent with the government.
Votes must be redistributed under the proportional representation system, so that the two main parties could still lose seats.
Cyprus scrapped its controversial Passport for Investment program last November after Al Jazeera aired a documentary showing journalists claiming to represent a Chinese businessman seeking a Cypriot passport despite a criminal record.
Parliament was at the center of fury after President Demetris Syllouris and an opposition MP were secretly filmed trying to facilitate the fugitive investor’s passport.
They later resigned, although both insisted they were innocent of any wrongdoing.
# photo1 ″ There is an electorate who is very unhappy with the political elite and the parliament, ”said Hubert Faustmann, professor of history and political science at the University of Nicosia.
“People are fed up with corruption in public life. “
Cyprus has an executive system of government with the president elected separately, but the vote is also seen as an indicator of the popularity of Anastasiades, whose term expires in 2023.
– ‘Emergency state’ –
Cyprus has the highest number of first-time asylum seekers per capita in the bloc of 27, according to statistical agency Eurostat, and immigration is a hot topic for the easternmost member state of the country. European Union.
The government has declared Cyprus to be in a “state of emergency” due to the influx of migrants from war-torn Syria and beyond.
The first results of the polling stations indicated that ELAM and the socialist EDEK were fighting to become the fourth party.
According to returning officer Costas Constantinou, turnout hit a new low with 63.9%, up from 66.7% in 2016.
However, he said he was “very satisfied” with the figure, given that the vote took place during the Covid-19 pandemic.
In an English-language Cyprus Mail column under the headline “From Corruption to an Honest State”, prominent lawyer Achilleas Demetriades called for a vote for reform and change.
“New coalitions and new policies are needed,” he wrote. “The autocratic approach and arrogance must be replaced by modern approaches to politics. “
The latest round of UN-backed Cyprus reunification talks collapsed in acrimony in 2017, and a UN summit in Geneva last month failed to reach agreement on resuming the talks.
© 2021 AFP