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26 May 2021

Robert Schuman Fondation: The Democratic Rally (DISY) may remain in office in Cyprus after the 30 May parliamentary elections

An opinion poll by the CyBC Institute showed the fight against corruption is the first electoral issue for Cypriots, followed by the management of the health crisis.

557,589 Cypriots are due to vote on 30 May to elect 56 members of the Vouli antiprosopon (House of Representatives), the single chamber of parliament, which was dissolved on 22 April. 1,160 mobile polling stations will criss-cross the country to allow people infected with the coronavirus to perform their civic duty from their homes. In addition, 10 polling stations will be opened abroad: 4 in London and Athens and 2 in Thessaloniki.

A total of 659 candidates from 15 political parties and citizens' groups are running. These legislative elections could well inaugurate a new political era for Cyprus with the entry of several "small" parties in the House of Representatives, which would lead to an unprecedented fragmentation of the Parliament.

According to an opinion poll by the CyBC institute, only 22% of Cypriots are satisfied with the functioning of democracy on their island and 80% say they do not trust the political system, the highest figure ever recorded. "We had to expect this. The 30 May elections come at the end of a decade marked by the financial crisis, the coronavirus pandemic, corruption and the ups and downs of negotiations on the division of the island," said researcher Yannis Mavris.

A few months ago, Cyprus was hit by the "golden passport" scandal. The island issued passports to thousands of foreign investors in exchange for an investment of €2.5 million, which included the purchase of a residence. Launched in 2007, the Cyprus Investment Programme (CIP) grew especially after the 2013 economic crisis when the country was on the verge of bankruptcy. According to the Ministry of Interior, around 4,000 foreigners have benefited from the programme, which has generated some €8 billion in revenue. People linked to organised crime who can infiltrate the EU in this way, promoting corruption and money laundering, can potentially use the scheme. Nevertheless, some twenty Member States offer this type of service. The Commission regularly denounces the laxity of certain States in controlling applicants and the lack of transparency in the granting procedures, the "risks" that these procedures represent for "security", the possibilities of "money laundering" and "tax evasion" that they constitute. In one report, Al-Jazeera journalists posed as representatives of a fictitious person with a significant criminal record who wanted access to the Cyprus investment programme. Despite this fact, the report shows that several officials and personalities were willing to help him obtain a Cypriot passport. Following its broadcast, the Speaker of Parliament, Demetris Syllouri (Solidarity Movement, KA), who was involved in the transaction, was forced to resign. The so-called golden passport system was abolished on 1 November. The Cypriot authorities are reviewing the files of the 4,000 people who benefited from the scheme. Last week, they announced the revocation of seven passports.

A difficult electoral campaign

It is therefore not surprising that, according to an opinion poll conducted last March by the CyBC Institute, the fight against corruption is the first electoral issue for Cypriots, followed by the management of the health crisis.

The ruling Democratic Rally (DISY) is torn between its right wing, which is appealing to patriotism in order not to lose its most conservative voters and trying to win over supporters of more right-wing parties such as the National People's Front (ELAM), and its left wing, which is seeking to attract voters from the centre in order to win on 30 May.

The Progressive Workers' Party (AKEL) accuses the outgoing government of neglecting the problem of the division of the island and of not addressing the Cypriots living in the northern part of the island. The main opposition party laments the near absence of a welfare state and social policy in the country. To remedy this situation, it proposes to modernise the welfare state and decentralise social policy. It is promising to give more money to local communities for better care of the young and the old. It wants to make home ownership easier by regulating rents and mortgages according to socio-economic criteria and by giving tax breaks to young homeowners. Finally, it is promising to abandon the 12% penalty for people who stop working at 63.

The Democratic Party (DIKO) has criticised the outgoing government for its handling of the health crisis on an island that lives largely on tourism.
The Green Movement-Citizens' Cooperation (KOSP) is trying to establish itself as an alternative force to the traditional parties. According to some political analysts, the ecologists could achieve a high result due to the positioning of their new leader, Charalambos Theopemptou, who is more focused on environmental issues and less on dividing the island than his predecessor was.
A new party, Famagusta for Cyprus, could be the biggest surprise on 30 May. It was founded by refugees dissatisfied with the political handling of the division of Cyprus. It criticises the use of the division of the island by political parties to preserve the partisan status quo. The party supports a federal solution. It is running 19 candidates in each of the constituencies, including a large number of women and young people. It is fighting against corruption and wants to develop an education system that will empower children to become true citizens.

According to an opinion poll conducted by the Pulse Institute between 4 and 7 May, the Democratic Rally (DISY) is expected to lead the elections with 25.7% of the vote ahead of the Progressive Workers' Party (AKEL), 22.9%, the Democratic Party (DIKO), 12.1%, the Movement of Ecologists-Citizens' Cooperation, 7.10% of the vote, and the National People's Front (ELAM), the Movement for Social Democracy-Citizens' Alliance (EDEK-SYPOL), 5.7%, the Democratic Front (DIPA), a centrist party created in 2018 by DIKO members opposed to Nikolas Papadopoulos and led by Marios Garoyian, 3.6%, as well as the Generation Change (Allagi Genias), the former Movement of Independents, led by Anna Theologou, and finally the Solidarity Movement, 2.9%.

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