In elections held to the House of Representatives in the Republic of Cyprus on May 30, the conservative Democratic Rally (DISY) emerged as the single largest party after winning 27.8% votes and 17 seats, one seat less than its previous tally in the last elections. The main opposition, the communist Progressive Party of Working People (AKEL), managed to secure 22.3% votes and 15 seats, losing one seat compared to the last elections. The centrist Democratic Party (DIKO) received 11.3% votes and maintained its nine seats. Meanwhile, the far-right National Popular Front (ELAM) increased its tally to four seats from two. The centrist Democratic Alignment (DiPa) and the social democrat-citizen alliance secured four seats each, and the ecologist movement won three seats.
While the House of Representatives in the Republic of Cyprus has a total of 80 seats, 24 seats are reserved for Turkish Cypriots. These seats have remained unfilled since 1964 when the ethnic conflict between the Greek and Turkish Cypriots resulted in the de facto division of the island.
The British colonial administration that directly ruled Cyprus from 1878 to 1960 intentionally tried to divide the islanders on ethnic lines in order to weaken the independence movement. Even after attaining independence from the British, ethnic tensions prevailed and hyper-nationalists on both the Greek and Turkish sides, with the backing of their respective countries’ establishments, confronted each other, causing the escalation of the ethnic conflict during 1963-64. Later, the intervention of the Greek military in 1974 and the Turkish military’s response resulted in the de-facto division of the country on ethnic lines and the internal displacement of thousands of Cypriots. Currently, the southern part of the island remains as a sovereign state called Republic of Cyprus, while the northern part of the island is under the occupation of Turkey.
The tightening grip of Turkey in Northern Cyprus has been marked by attacks on the leftist progressive sections and the promotion of hyper-nationalism. Such political developments in the north have had repercussions in the Republic of Cyprus as well. Despite the presence of a strong pro-unity, pro-democratic and secular section in both parts of the island, the far-right has been able to make strong strides in the north, and now also in the Republic of Cyprus as the election results indicate. The far-right ELAM is notorious for its opposition to immigrants and its contempt for the federal solution for the reunification of Cyprus. ELAM has also maintained a close relationship with Greece’s Golden Dawn, which was convicted by a Greek court as a fascist and a criminal organization in 2020.
Similar to the 2016 parliamentary elections, no party has achieved the 29-seat simple majority in the de facto 56-seat House of Representatives. In the 2018 presidential elections, Nicos Anastasiades from DISY had won in the second round and formed a cabinet composed of his party members and independent technocrats.
Controversies like the ‘golden passport’ scam have created disenchantment among the people. The scam was exposed in 2020 revealing corruption and malpractice in the government’s plan to give citizenship to foreign businessmen to attract investments to Cyprus.
Following the declaration of the election results, AKEL accepted its defeat, stating that “We recognized this from the first moment and did not hide behind the fact that all four traditional parties had casualties. We have already launched the processes of self-criticism and boldly discussing our mistakes and weaknesses that led to this result so as to take all necessary decisions and hard work.”
“The government and the ruling party are trying to portray the election results as a [vindication] of Anastasiadis’ government, its politicians and its actions. But the truth is that DISY suffered losses because of his government’s policies and behavior that caused anger and frustration in society, even among many of his voters,” AKEL said.