Cyprus – the EU Parliamentary Elections.

Political Background

Cyprus joined the EU as part of the massive expansion of early 2004 along with nine other states. It is also now a Eurozone member.

An island nation, Cyprus is one of the three EU member states with a population below a million.

Cypriot politics has long been dominated by the Cyprus dispute under which the island is partitioned into the ethnically Greek Republic of Cyprus and Turkish Republic of North Cyprus which is an unrecognised state occupying 40% of the island’s North-East.

Greeks and Turks have long argued over who the island rightfully belongs to. It is broadly agreed that around 80% of the population of Cyprus was Greek and 20% is Turkish. As well as an ethnic and lingual divide, this also has religious ramifications, with Greeks being almost entirely Orthodox Christian and Turks being Sunni Muslim.

Cyprus was formally administered by the British from 1878 and formally annexed in 1914. Greek-Cypriots launched an armed struggle for unification with Greece, known as Enosis, while Turkish-Cypriots led their own armed struggle for partition, afraid of how they would fare in a unified Cyprus.

The British gave the Cypriots independence in 1960, with a constitution that was supposed to entrench ethnic power-sharing. A coup organised by the Greek government led to a counter-invasion by the Turkish in 1974. The line of conflict was frozen at the ‘Green line’. As well as through the island, the Green line runs straight through the capital, Nicosia. Today the North is almost entirely Turkish and the South Greek, with the South still officially being run under the 1960 constitution.

The North is now run as a democratic separate, though unrecognised, state. 3% of the Island is also under British sovereignty as military bases and 8% is policed as an UN-administered buffer zone.

There have been repeated attempts to negotiate on re-unification. The closest Cyprus has come is the Annan Plan for Cyprus, whereby the two states would be unified as federation called the ‘United Republic of Cyprus’ which would be an EU member. In a referendum the Annan Plan was supported by 65% of those in the North but only 24% of those in the South, thus failing to pass.

In 2013 the current pro-reunification President, Nicos Anastasiades, began unification talks with his Turkish Cypriot equivalent. The two leaders met on the 11th of February in the Buffer Zone.

The Republic of Cyprus was badly affected by the Eurozone crisis due to high amounts of debt amongst Cypriot banks from Greece. In 2011, the Cypriot government, no longer able to raise funds from international bond markets, requested a bailout from first Russia and then the EU. In March 2012 Moody’s downgraded Cyprus’s credit rating to junk status.

The election of the centre-right President Anastasiades led to a big change in the country’s stance after the former left-wing government had tried to avoid a bailout and austerity at all costs.

The Cypriot government was forced to request a bailout from the European Union and a deal was reached in April 2013.

Cyprus was given a 10 million Euro loan as part of an EU/IMF deal. As part of the deal a controversial bank levy was imposed on Cypriot banks, which are used as a tax haven for wealthy foreigners (many of them Russian and alleged to have connections to organised crime). However, while the rate is higher for those with more than 100,000 Euros in the bank, normal savers were still exposed to a 6.75% loss. The country was also forced to close its second largest bank and had to impose austerity.

The Cypriot deal was widely described as incompetently handled by the Eurozone. Irish MEP Nessa Childers called the negotiations an “incompetent mess” and described them as destabilising for the Eurozone. The Economist described the deal as incoherent. The US State Department’s former EU and NATO specialist Jeffrey Stacey said the deal hurt EU and US strategic interests by pushing the country towards Russia.

Cyprus is Europe’s only true Presidential system.

Cyprus is technically Europe’s most South-Easterly state, residing South of Turkey. Technically speaking it is on the Asiatic plate.

As polls are sparse in Cyprus due to the low population, and there have been no elections since the 2013 Presidential election this will be the first measure of how Cypriots have reacted to the financial crisis.

Electoral System

As one of the smallest EU states, Cyprus elects only six MEPs, the joint smallest MEP delegation along with Estonia, Luxembourg and Malta.

Cyprus uses a list system, with seats broadly assigned to parties in proportion to their votes. Cyprus uses an open-list system whereby voters may vote for individual candidates on the lists. Seats are assigned to the candidates on each list who gets the most votes.

Voting is, in theory, compulsory in Cyprus, but this is rarely enforced. Turnout was 59.4% in 2009.

2009 Election Result

Party European Political Party Votes Seats
Democratic Rally (DISY) European People’s Party 35.7% 2
Progressive Party of Working People (AKEL) European United Left 34.9% 2
Democratic Party (DIKO) Socialists and Democrats 12.3% 1
Movement for Social Democracy Socialists and Democrats 9.9% 1

Likely results

Polling is almost non-existent in Cyprus outside of national election periods. It is clear, however, that austerity has not been popular in Cyprus and strikes and protests are common.

With only 6 MEPs there is also likely to not be much movement (only one seat changed hands in 2009). Due to the harsh austerity conditions there is likely to be a strong protest vote available for AKEL and EDEK, though memories of the AKEL-led Christofias government may not help the former.