Cyprus 2011

A legislative election was held in Cyprus on May 22, 2011. All 56 seats in Cyprus’ unicameral Parliament, the Vouli ton Antiprosópon (House of Representatives) were up for election. Cyprus’ Parliament has 56 full members, in addition to three observers representing the Maronite, Latin (Catholics) and Armenian minority. Since 1985, there are 24 seats “reserved” for Turkish Cypriots, but they’ve never been occupied because northern Cyprus has been occupied/ruled by Turkey/the TRNC since 1974. The Parliament’s 56 members are elected by largest remainder (hare quota, open list) PR with a 1.8% threshold in six constituencies which are also the administrative districts of the island. One district, Kyrenia, elects three members but is entirely within the northern Turkish zone, so I’m not sure how stuff works over there or who gets to vote there.

Whoruleswhere has a great profile of Cyprus which talks about the history and other details. Cyprus is a presidential republic, with the head of state playing the role of head of government. The head of state of Cyprus since 2008 is Dimitris Christofias of the communist Progressive Party of the Working People (AKEL). Cyprus is notable for being, alongside Nepal, the only country ruled by a democratically-elected communist party. AKEL supports reunification with the north, but talks more about the economy. Reunification has seemingly been pushed off the table since the 2004 defeat of the Annan Plan, and was dealt a severe blow when the north elected Derviş Eroğlu, who opposes reunification, to the presidency in 2010. Talks are basically stalled. AKEL governs in coalition with the Democratic Party (DIKO), a centre-left anti-reunification party formerly led by ex-President Tassos Papadopoulos, the anti-reunification incumbent defeated in 2008.

Meanwhile, the opposition is led by the Democratic Rally (DISY), a centre-right pro-reunification party led by Nicos Anastasiades. The ranks of the opposition also include the Movement for Social Democracy (EDEK) which despite being founded by prominent Greek nationalist Vasos Lyssaridis supports reunification and indeed the leader of EDEK’s youth wing conspired to killed Lyssaridis at one point. Finally, the European Party (Evroko) holds three seats and is a centrist party though some say it’s a far-right party supporting Enosis (union with Greece); there is also one Green.

The economy has played a major role in the electoral campaign. The government boasts a 1% GDP growth in 2010, a figure due to grow to 1.5-1.7% in 2011. The island’s 5.3% public deficit is below the EU’s 6% threshold. But the economic crisis has forced Nicosia to borrow money three times on financial markets and the credit rating was taken down a notch as Cyprus was criticized for inappropriate fiscal measures and lack of structural reforms (regarding public sector wages and social transfers which make up two-thirds of spending). The government’s response to the crisis has included increasing public spending and increasing retirement pensions by 30%. But negotiations, long overdue, on retirement pension reform keeps being delayed. The opposition has criticized the government’s policies and contends that the economic situation on the island has been made worse by the government. DISY supports privatization of some state companies, increases in social security contributions by civil servants, a 2-year moratorium on new public sector jobs and higher taxes on consumer goods. It also supports ‘private initiative’ to boost economic growth.

Here are the results:

DISY 34.28% (+3.76%) winning 20 seats (+2)
AKEL 32.67% (+1.36%) winning 19 seats (+1)
DIKO 15.76% (-2.22%) winning 9 seats (-2)
EDEK 8.93% (-0.03%) winning 5 seats (±0)
Evroko 3.88% (-1.91%) winning 2 seats (-1)
Greens 2.21% (+0.25%) winning 1 seat (±0)
ELAM 1.08% winning 0 seats (±0)

The governing AKEL-DIKO cabinet has 28 seats, exactly half of the seats in the Cypriot Parliament. It is unlikely that this election will have any major impact on future Cypriot politics.

AKEL has a remarkably stable base of support, with support oscillating between 27% and 35% since the 1980s. It has won either 18, 19 or 20 seats since 1991. It is thus unsurprising that its vote share barely budged. DISY gains by being the most prominent opposition force, but apparently its leader Nicos Anastasiades is poorly regarded. It is hard to say how much of DIKO’s decline might indicate declining support for hardline anti-reunification talk, given that many prominent politicians have pointed out that public skepticism is growing with regard to the conclusion of an agreement. But there seems to be, since 2008 or so, more appetite in the south towards reunification but ironically if recent elections in the north are any indicator, the north might not be moving in that same direction.

Cyprus’ Interior Ministry has a nice results interface thing. AKEL was the largest party in Kyrenia and Larnaca, the latter of which has a major harbour and oil refinery. DIKO and EDEK’s support was highest in Paphos (western Cyprus), reaching 23.3% and 19% respectively in that district.

Posted on May 24, 2011, in Cyprus. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Cyprus seems to have quite original politics.

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