NICOSIA, Cyprus — Far-right ELAM and two other small parties won seats in Cyprus’s parliament for the first time during elections Sunday that were marked by the second-lowest voter turnout and biggest shift among swing voters in Cypriot election history.
Analyst Christophoros Christophorou said final results indicate a strong undercurrent of disillusionment with the country’s traditional powerhouses. Eight parties will be represented in the 56-seat parliament, the most in 15 years. A third of registered voters didn’t cast ballots.
“I want to believe that the choice of a large portion of the electorate not to participate in the elections will give pause to everyone,” Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades said in a written statement.
Christophorou said a sizable portion of voters sought to punish larger parties for a recent economic crisis in which the unemployment rate reached record highs. The results also may be a backlash to the doubling of the percentage of votes required to win a seat in parliament. Many interpreted the increse of the electoral threshold to 3.6 percent as an attempt to shut out smaller parties.
This result has no effect on the formation of the government, which is already in place. That will change only after the next presidential elections, in 2018.
The communist-rooted AKEL had its vote share shrink to its lowest level ever, with 25.7 percent, Christophorou said. But the party managed to hold on to second place behind right-wing DISY, which also hemorrhaged support of about 10 to 11 percent.
ELAM, which is said to have links to Greece’s Nazi-inspired Golden Dawn party, advocates a hard-line nationalist stance in ongoing talks with breakaway Turkish Cypriots aimed at reunifying the ethnically split island. Cyprus was divided into an internationally recognized Greek Cypriot south and a breakaway Turkish Cypriot north in 1974, when Turkey invaded after a coup aimed at a union with Greece.
The two other new parties, the center-left Citizens’ Alliance and the Solidarity movement, also espouse a tougher line in peace talks. Anastasiades and Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci have made significant headway after a year of renewed talks, but difficulties remain. Both men have said they aim to put together a deal by the end of the year.
The emergence of the new parties in parliament could ratchet up pressure for a firmer negotiating stance in peace talks. But it doesn’t necessarily mean it would result in a majority of Greek Cypriots rejecting reunification when a finalized peace deal is put to a referendum in both communities, Christophorou said.
The multiplicity of parties in parliament could complicate the passage of contentious legislation if the two largest parties don’t see eye to eye on a bill, he said.